Matt Drudge is famous for his ability to stir up controversy by just posting something on the Drudge Report. But Tuesday night’s much-hyped release of a 2007 speech by then-Sen. Barack Obama fell flat.
The Hampton University speech, given to a conference of black clergy members when Obama was a presidential candidate, was widely covered in the press at the time. In it he talked about a “quiet riot” among African-Americans in impoverished communities. He also praised Pastor Jeremiah Wright as a “friend and great leader” — a quote Politico called it one of the “top eight gaffes” of the 2008 campaign.
While Drudge, Fox News’ Sean Hannity and the Daily Caller Web site trumpeted the video, it’s gotten a skeptical reception even from Republicans.
“This hurts Mitt,” 2008 Romney adviser Alex Castellanos told BuzzFeed. “An abysmally selfish and stupid event.”
“What’s the ‘So what’ of this video?” asked Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) on Fox News. “I don’t think it’s going to really go anywhere.”
The Romney campaign, which in recent weeks highlighted a 1998 video in which Obama talked about government “redistribution,” has ignored the release and denied any involvement. A spokesman merely told ABC News that “President Obama’s views shape his policies, and his policies have been devastating for our economy.”
Senior Romney campaign adviser Kevin Madden was less enthusiastic on CBS Wednesday morning.
“I think what’s much more important to this debate right now are the president’s policies — the president’s record over the last four years,” he said. Asked later by ABC News if the video would come up in the first presidential debate, Madden said, “I don’t expect that at all.”
Fox News host Greta van Susteren was skeptical, telling former House speaker Newt Gingrich, “I think his record has a far greater impact than what he said in 2007, but I could be wrong.”
Gingrich argued that the tape has “some impact,” although a few minutes later he added, “I don’t think this particular speech is definitive.” He compared it to Vice President Biden’s “chains” comment, which Republicans greeted with far more enthusiasm.
Some conservatives suggested the video could have had an impact in the 2008 primary, had it gotten more coverage. Many saw it’s relative obscurity as a sign of media bias. But few saw it as a political coup.
The Daily Caller Web site highlighted Obama’s comment that the federal government was not doing enough in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. “Tells me that somehow, the people down in New Orleans, they don’t care about as much!” he said. That comment was not in Obama’s prepared remarks. But it also doesn’t appear to be having much impact.