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 8:59 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
You could be forgiven for thinking no one cares -- or even should care, right now -- about climate change, writes CNN's John Sutter. But you'd be mistaken.
updated 5:32 PM EDT, Sun September 21, 2014
David Gergen says the White House's war against ISIS is getting off to a rough start and needs to be set right
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
John Sutter boarded a leaky oyster boat in Connecticut with a captain who can't swim as he set off to get world leaders to act on climate change
updated 3:17 PM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says making rude use of the Mexican flag on Mexican independence day in a concert in Mexico was extremely tasteless, but not an international incident.
updated 9:59 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Michael Dunn is going to stand trial again after a jury was unable to reach a verdict; Mark O'Mara hopes for a fair trial.
updated 7:15 PM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Is ballet dying? CNN spoke with Isabella Boylston, a principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, about the future of the art form.
updated 5:47 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Sally Kohn says it's time we take climate change as seriously as we do warfare in the Middle East
updated 3:27 PM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Laurence Steinberg says the high obesity rate among young children is worrisome for a host of reasons
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Dean Obeidallah says an Oklahoma state representative's hateful remarks were rightfully condemned by religious leaders..
updated 3:22 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
No matter how much planning has gone into U.S. military plans to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Arab public isn't convinced that anything will change, says Geneive Abdo
updated 11:44 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
President Obama's strategy for destroying ISIS seems to depend on a volley of air strikes. That won't be enough, says Haider Mullick.
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Paul Begala says Hillary Clinton has plenty of good reasons not to jump into the 2016 race now
updated 11:01 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Scotland decided to trust its 16-year-olds to vote in the biggest question in its history. Americans, in contrast, don't even trust theirs to help pick the county sheriff. Who's right?
updated 9:57 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says spanking is an acceptable form of disciplining a child, as long as you follow the rules.
updated 11:47 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Frida Ghitis says the foiled Australian plot shows ISIS is working diligently to taunt the U.S. and its allies.
updated 3:58 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Young U.S. voters by and large just do not see the midterm elections offering legitimate choices because, in their eyes, Congress has proven to be largely ineffectual, and worse uncaring, argues John Della Volpe
updated 9:58 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Steven Holmes says spanking, a practice that is ingrained in our culture, accomplishes nothing positive and causes harm.
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Sally Kohn says America tried "Cowboy Adventurism" as a foreign policy strategy; it failed. So why try it again?
updated 10:27 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Van Jones says the video of John Crawford III, who was shot by a police officer in Walmart, should be released.
updated 10:48 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
NASA will need to embrace new entrants and promote a lot more competition in future, argues Newt Gingrich.
updated 7:15 PM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
If U.S. wants to see real change in Iraq and Syria, it will have to empower moderate forces, says Fouad Siniora.
updated 8:34 PM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
Mark O'Mara says there are basic rules to follow when interacting with law enforcement: respect their authority.
updated 9:05 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
updated 7:49 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
updated 1:23 PM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT