Playing Defense: NYT's Oppel Says It's 'Falsehood' for Perry to Call Obama Elitist

When Gov. Rick Perry attacked President Obama as an elitist, New York Times reporter Richard Oppel Jr. didn’t just quibble with or criticize the attacks as overboard, but banished them to the “realm of falsehood," in Friday's “Perry’s Latest Attacks Distort Obama’s Words and Past.

As Mr. Perry has painted himself as the cure for Washington’s ills, however, some his recent attacks have drifted into the realm of falsehood, repeating some of the themes of past critiques suggesting that Mr. Obama is elitist.

Most notably, in a new television commercial released Wednesday, he attacks Mr. Obama for believing “that Americans are lazy.” Mr. Perry says in the ad: “That’s pathetic. It’s time to clean house in Washington.”

The advertisement begins with a clip of Mr. Obama stating, “We’ve been a little bit lazy, I think, over the last couple of decades.”

But Mr. Obama’s statement was not about “Americans” generally, but about the country’s efforts to attract foreign investment. It came in response to a question put to him at a conference last weekend by W. James McNerney Jr., chief executive of Boeing, who had asked him how foreign investors looked at the United States.

Mr. Obama replied that the United States had been complacent in luring foreign investors: “There are a lot of things that make foreign investors see the U.S. as a great opportunity -- our stability, our openness, our innovative free market culture.”

“But we’ve been a little bit lazy, I think, over the last couple of decades,” he said. “We’ve kind of taken for granted -- well, people will want to come here -- and we aren’t out there hungry, selling America and trying to attract new business into America.”

Oppel did not appreciate Perry's exchange with Fox News host Sean Hannity.

Hannity: What does it reveal to you about his mind-set and his thinking?”

Perry: “It reveals to me that he grew up in a privileged way. You know, he never had to really work for anything. He never had to go through what Americans are going through.”

Oppel came swiftly to the president’s defense, the same way Times reporter Larry Rohter fought fiercely at Obama’s side under the guise of fact-checking during the 2008 campaign. Apparently going to Harvard Law School can not possibly count as evidence of a privileged background.

Mr. Obama, whose background could be considered no better off than middle class, was raised partly by a single mother who at times, he has said, was on food stamps. He also achieved the pinnacle of legal education, winning election as president of the Harvard Law Review.

Take that, Gov. Perry!

TimesWatch 2012 Presidential New York Times Richard Oppel Jr. Rick Perry
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