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How Many Times Has Obama Been "Beneath the Dignity of His Office"?

The president used the n-word, and conservative media is appalled. Again.

Fox News

Fox News has exacting standards for the classiness for American presidents. A president should be a man of the people, but not a man of, you know, those people. President Barack Obama often fails to live up to Fox’s high standards. On Monday, that was because Obama said the n-word—the whole thing, no asterisks—when talking about lingering racism on the "WTF with Marc Maron" podcast.

On "Fox and Friends," the morning show that sets the day’s agenda on the cable channel, Steve Doocy explained the debate to come: “People will be talking about whether or not it’s appropriate for the president to use the ‘n-word’ and whether or not it is beneath the dignity of his office.” (Those people would be guests on Fox News.) Elisabeth Hasselbeck, who replaced Gretchen Carlson in the role of concerned blonde woman, was troubled. “I think many people are wondering if it’s only there that he would say it… And not, perhaps, in a State of the Union or more public address. If he’s only doing this because he feels, you know, cloaked in the podcast, that he felt safe to do it there.” (This has long been a touchy subject for Hasselbeck; in 2008, on ABC’s "The View," she argued people should ever say the n-word, not even in private, not even if they’re black.) In a later segment, Doocy picked up Hasselbeck’s idea that Obama might blurt out the n-word during the most formal occasions: “Is it okay for him to stand in the briefing room in the White House and do it, in front of a joint session of Congress with State of the Union?”

That Obama! You can’t take him anywhere.

The theme was carried through the network’s daytime news coverage into the primetime shows. "He has really dragged in the gutter-speak of rap music," Fox contributor Deneen Borelli told host Bill Hemmer. "So now he's the first President of rap, of street? I mean, come on, he has lowered the stature of the high office of the President of the United States." 

Monday night, David Webb guest hosted for Sean Hannity, and he brought Borelli on too.

WEBB: Deneen, President Obama comments and the dignity of the office.

BORELLI: It's outrageous, David. I think he has absolutely lowered the standard in terms of being president of the United States. He made no mention of racism in America when he ran for president not once but twice. And I have dubbed him today rapper-in-chief for using such language.

And you should see all the hate mail that I'm getting. I'm being attacked for talking about President Obama using such language on the national platform.

What are young children thinking? What are people thinking that this is coming from the president of the United States? It's outrageous!

WEBB: So sounds like you're talking about the office of the presidency...

BORELLI: Absolutely.

WEBB: ... not the partisanship, but the office of the president...


This isn't about partisanship, okay? It's about decorum.

This is how Fox can criticize Obama on the subject of racism without dealing his argument, which is actually a response to a fairly common conservative claim: that racism isn't really a problem anymore because things aren't as bad as they were in the 1960s. Megyn Kelly brought on conservative radio host Kevin Jackson, who argued that Obama was actually showing off his presidential privilege by using the n-word:

JACKSON: I think it was inappropriate, but I think it is a word that is used in black culture quite a bit. I think quite frankly, it was Barack Obama essentially mooning America saying I can say words that you no longer can say. And everybody knows that you have to say the N word as ridiculous as it is because we certainly know what the word is. But I'll tell you this, Sterling, Donald Sterling is probably wondering why Barack Obama still has a job, I bet you Paula Deen may be wondering.

Kelly should be commended for responding, basically, you can’t be serious, dude: "Come on. It's not the same thing, Kevin. It's not exactly the same thing. First of all, they're white, OK. And second of all, they weren't saying it respectfully."

Obama on "Between Two Ferns"

That Obama has destroyed the dignity of the White House is a frequent complaint in conservative media. Sometimes it's hard not to read into it a bit of discomfort with a black guy in the Oval Office. Take this March 2014 Washington Times editorial on Obama’s appearance on “Between Two Ferns”:

“Funny or Die” fits Mr. Obama’s pattern of demeaning the office. From having foul-mouthed rapper Cee-Lo Green perform at a 2012 fundraiser in Atlanta, hosting violence-advocate poet-rapper Common at the White House and “slow-jamming the news” on NBC’s “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,” schmoozing with a major producer of pornography, and making a campaign appearance with “the pimp with a limp,” Mr. Obama is the Rodney Dangerfield of presidents, showing the office no respect — and expecting none himself.

Obama with GloZell

But often the dignity criticism is not wrapped up in hangups about hip-hop. Rush Limbaugh, too, says Obama is diminishing the office, but, "It began with Bill Clinton. There was an arrest and a restoration when George W. Bush was there, but the office of the presidency has taken a big hit dignity-wise." In August 2014, Limbaugh said Obama was acting "beneath the dignity of the office" for holding a press conference about Obamacare in which he said death panels aren't real. ("But there are death panels!" Rush said.) Limbaugh didn't like Obama's interviews with YouTube stars: "You talk about beneath the dignity of the office, maybe setting a new low. President Obama with YouTube interviews. It's an outreach to the youths of America, but, folks, it was so embarrassing."

But no one polices the presidentiality of Obama’s behavior as consistently as Fox News does. It’s not always about race; it's often about kids. Howard Kurtz complained, on the same day that Limbaugh did, that Obama's interview with YouTuber GloZell was "beneath the dignity of the office." Megyn Kelly said it was “beneath the dignity of the office” when Obama took a shot at Fox News for creating "narratives" about poor people who don't want to work. During the 2012 election, Sean Hannity repeatedly said Obama's campaign was "beneath the dignity of the office" for the attacks on Mitt Romney. For example, on August 12, 2012, Hannity told Karl Rove, of all people, "This is now become the dirtiest campaign I have seen in my lifetime. A campaign that is full of lies, distortion, propaganda, misinformation. They seem unhinged, desperate and on top—just beneath the dignity of the office, Karl."

Young people, black people, Fox haters, Democrats—Obama is apparently behaving beneath the dignity of the office whenever he does something to appeal to voters outside the Fox News demographic.