NBC Exec: Obama's Skin Color Gives Him More Legitimacy Than Any American Leader In History

November 30th, 2008 1:35 PM

The number two man at NBC News believes Barack Obama's skin color gives him more legitimacy around the world than possibly any American leader in history.

For those unfamiliar, Mark Whitaker is the Senior Vice President that succeeded the late Tim Russert as NBC's Washington Bureau Chief, and currently oversees national and international reporting for all the network's news programs including the "Nightly News," the "Today" show, MSNBC, and "Meet the Press." 

As part of the panel on Sunday's "The Chris Matthews Show," Whitaker said the following about Barack Obama (h/t American Thinker's Marc Sheppard, file photo):

I think it goes beyond the Middle East, and I think it's a bigger phenomenon which is the leader of the biggest democracy in the world is now a person of color and that is going to give him what political scientists would call a legitimacy in the street around the world that I don't think an American leader has had, ever perhaps.

Imagine that. Because Obama is black, before he even steps into the White House and accomplishes one darned thing he already has more legitimacy around the world than possibly every American president that came before him.

Isn't that racist? Isn't suggesting that someone is better or more "legitimate" solely because of the color of his or her skin a tremendously offensive concept?

Doesn't this go counter to Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream that his four children "will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character" (h/t NBer Mike Bratton)?

How did such obvious racism go completely unchallenged by Matthews and the rest of his panel? After all, doesn't this mean that all the white leaders of Europe and in other parts of the world are now LESS legitimate than Obama just because they're not black?

Also quite astonishing, Whitaker's comments came during a discussion of why Obama's middle-name "Hussein" is actually now a good thing:

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Despite his best efforts, Barack Obama couldn't stop all that internet chatter from the radical right that he's actually a Muslim or an actual terrorist sympathizer. Even up to Election Day 12% of Americans thought Obama is a Muslim. At times McCain rallies even played on those doubts. Here's a conservative radio talk show host at one of those rallies. 

CONSERVATIVE TALK SHOW HOST: At some point the media will quit taking sides in this thing, and maybe start covering Barack Hussein Obama.

MATTHEWS: When Obama won, Muslims in Africa and elsewhere rejoiced. No surprise, and so now, irony of ironies, al Qaeda is worried, al Qaeda is worried that Obama’s global popularity will hurt their appeal around the world. David, I'm fascinated by this. To what extent do they see him as a son of that part of the world, being from a Swahili name, a father from Kenya, with that name, Barack Hussein Obama, how much do they see as one of their own and therefore a popular figure?

Imagine that. Throughout the campaign we were told by liberal media members that any reference to Obama's middle-name was racist. Now that he's about to be president, his middle-name is an asset that can be freely discussed:

DAVID IGNATIUS, WASHINGTON POST: Well, they don't know yet, but you can see that they're excited at the possibility that this really is a different kind of American president. How amazing his middle name is Hussein. Can this really be? And this is a world that has really grown to hate the United States. I’m sorry to say, in the numbers, if you read the polls, that this should worry all of us. So, you can see it in the statement recently by the number two in al Qaeda, Ayman Zawahiri, this racist statement describing Obama as a house Negro…What that shows me is that they are really unsettled by this. This is not the kind of president they're used to facing. In a sense, I shouldn’t say this, but Bush was comfortable for them because he was an easy adversary for them. Obama’s a very different kind of person. All across the Muslim Middle East I find these groups are looking out Obama, kind of revaluating their positions. You see that with Hamas. You see it in Syria. In Iran there's a great debate going on how about how do we deal with this guy, this force in America and world politics.

MATTHEWS: One reason for the rage from the east, and I’m no expert. All these years that have led to the terrorism, the undercurrent of rage against the west, us, is the sense that we have disrespected them, their culture, we have looked down on them. In fact, we have defeated them technologically in some cases. But there’s that sense that they feel they're reacting to the hatred of the west. By electing somebody with this name, are we going to diffuse some of that? I think that would be very hopeful if we could.

KATTY KAY, BBC: Yeah, I think it really does undermine some of that knee-jerk criticism of America. It's much harder if you're in the Middle East now to stand up and reject an American president whose middle-name is Hussein. It just, it just is.

Those who thought the Obama-loving media would become more impartial once he was elected were clearly kidding themselves.

Update 13:34 | Matthew Sheffield.  In his setup for the discussion, Chris Matthews just couldn't resist tarring all Republicans with the "radical right" angle. The "conservative talk radio host" he referenced, however, was immediately condemned by John McCain and other Republicans for calling Barack Obama by his middle name.

Earlier this year during the primary season, Ohio talk show host Bill Cunningham lashed out at the McCain camp for "throwing me under a bus" for his remarks. Matthews in his haste to lump all of his right-leaning foes together didn't see fit to mention any of this.