Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

What's behind dissing of the president?

By Dean Obeidallah, Special to CNN
updated 12:20 PM EDT, Sat June 16, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Dean Obeidallah: A reporter from right-wing site heckled Obama as he talked about immigration
  • He says heckling from Irish-born reporter part of right's campaign to delegitimize Obama
  • He says incidents include Wilson's "you lie," Trump seeking Obama's grades
  • Obeidallah: Expect to see more disrespecting of the president as "the other" during campaign

Editor's note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a political comedian and frequent commentator on various TV networks including CNN. He is the editor of the politics blog "The Dean's Report" and co-director of the upcoming documentary, "The Muslims Are Coming!" Follow him on Twitter: @deanofcomedy

(CNN) -- A reporter from a right-wing media outlet heckled President Obama -- not once, but twice -- on Friday as he was unveiling a new immigration policy. If this shocks you, you haven't been paying attention. This is simply the latest page from the right's playbook to delegitimize Barack Obama's presidency.

Some may dismiss it as an isolated incident, but it's not. It goes much deeper. Believe me, I know hecklers -- I'm a stand-up comedian. If someone heckles me once, it can be a mistake: too many drinks, overcome by emotion, etc. But when you heckle twice, you have an agenda.

Neil Munro, the Irish born reporter who heckled President Obama, was not just from some random publication. He works for The Daily Caller, a right-wing website whose editor-in-chief is the bow-tie wearing Tucker Carlson. (You may recall Carlson as the guy who famously sparred with — and was taken down by -- Jon Stewart on CNN years ago.)

Dean Obeidallah
Dean Obeidallah

Munro's first heckle occurred while President Obama was in midsentence, with Munro yelling out: "Why do you favor foreigners over Americans?" Obama responded: "Excuse me, sir, but it's not time for questions." Munro countered: "Are you going to take questions?"

To which the president answered: "Not while I'm speaking."

Later, Munro again interrupted the president in midstatement. Obama kept his cool; he simply finished his statement. If I had been president, I would have deported Munro back to his country of origin.

A quick perusal of Munro's Twitter feed reveals he does not hide his contempt for President Obama. His tweets range from claims that Obama is using NASCAR and country music to attract "white non-college voters," to slams of Michelle Obama, to allegations that Obama is racially discriminating against blacks in his White House hiring practices.

But this is all not about Munro -- he is just a small cog in the right's campaign to diminish the legitimacy of Obama's presidency. I'm not talking about people disagreeing with policies. I mean specifically the campaign to paint Barack Obama as less than American -- as an "other"--as someone whose presidency is not entitled to the same respect as that of the presidents who came before him.

This crusade began in the days before Barack Obama was even sworn in as president. Back then, Rush Limbaugh, the radio host and self-described "entertainer," announced on his show that he hoped Obama would fail as president. Obama had not even made his first decision as president.

The campaign has continued with the right's birther movement contending that Obama was not born in the United States and hence should not be president. Some, like evangelical leader Franklin Graham, have suggested that Obama is a Muslim (he is a Christian), which to many on the right would mean he's not a "real" American.

We have seen Republican Rep. Joe Wilson yell out at President Obama, "You lie" while Obama addressed a joint session of Congress in 2009. Can anyone remember the last time a U.S. president was called a liar in a joint session of Congress? I can't.

Then there was Republican Rep. Joe Walsh, who last July called on President Obama to "quit lying" in regards to the debt ceiling debate. Can anyone remember something like this with previous presidents? I can't either. And, of course, there's Donald Trump, not only periodically renewing the "birther" fabrication, but also demanding to see President Obama's college grades, implying he doesn't think Obama is intellectually qualified to be president.

So you see, Munro is just doing his tiny part. And no doubt some on the right will exalt him for his "courage." His boss, Tucker Carlson, defended him by saying that no one was upset when then-ABC reporter Sam Donaldson heckled President Reagan. But Fox News' Chris Wallace recalled today that when he was a White House correspondent with Donaldson during the Reagan administration, no one ever heckled the president.

So, yet another lie. But the truth doesn't matter to the far right. It's not about policy or what is good for the United States of America. It's about delegitimizing President Obama for political gain.

In the coming months, as we get closer to Election Day, you may see many more of these kinds of attacks. While they may disgust you, they should never surprise you. It's all in the playbook.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dean Obeidallah.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 11:39 AM EDT, Thu October 30, 2014
Mike Downey says the Giants and the Royals both lived through long title droughts. What teams are waiting for a win?
updated 2:32 PM EDT, Thu October 30, 2014
Mel Robbins says if a man wants to talk to a woman on the street, he should follow 3 basic rules.
updated 5:03 PM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say more terrorism plots are disrupted by families than by NSA surveillance.
updated 5:25 PM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Time magazine has clearly kicked up a hornet's nest with its downright insulting cover headlined "Rotten Apples," says Donna Brazile.
updated 4:55 PM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Leroy Chiao says the failure of the launch is painful but won't stop the trend toward commercializing space.
updated 7:45 AM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Timothy Stanley: Though Jeb Bush has something to offer, another Bush-Clinton race would be a step backward.
updated 8:37 AM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
Errol Louis says forced to choose between narrow political advantage and the public good, the governors showed they are willing to take the easy way out over Ebola.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Mon October 27, 2014
Eric Liu says with our family and friends and neighbors, each one of us must decide what kind of civilization we expect in the United States. It's our responsibility to set tone and standards, with our laws and norms
updated 7:45 AM EDT, Mon October 27, 2014
Sally Kohn says the UNC report highlights how some colleges exploit student athletes while offering little in return
updated 3:04 PM EDT, Sun October 26, 2014
Terrorists don't represent Islam, but Muslims must step up efforts to counter some of the bigotry within the world of Islam, says Fareed Zakaria
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
Scott Yates says extending Daylight Saving Time could save energy, reduce heart attacks and get you more sleep
updated 8:32 PM EDT, Sun October 26, 2014
Reza Aslan says the interplay between beliefs and actions is a lot more complicated than critics of Islam portray
updated 7:19 AM EDT, Mon October 27, 2014
Julian Zelizer says control of the Senate will be decided by a few close contests
updated 8:12 AM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
The response of some U.S. institutions that should know better to Ebola has been anything but inspiring, writes Idris Ayodeji Bello.
updated 9:12 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT