Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

What's behind dissing of the president?

By Dean Obeidallah, Special to CNN
June 16, 2012 -- Updated 1620 GMT (0020 HKT)
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
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1656 GMT (0056 HKT)
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1728 GMT (0128 HKT)
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 2008 GMT (0408 HKT)
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 2225 GMT (0625 HKT)
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1510 GMT (2310 HKT)
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1533 GMT (2333 HKT)
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1245 GMT (2045 HKT)
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1850 GMT (0250 HKT)
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1803 GMT (0203 HKT)
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1349 GMT (2149 HKT)
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 2205 GMT (0605 HKT)
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1142 GMT (1942 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1637 GMT (0037 HKT)
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1413 GMT (2213 HKT)
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1630 GMT (0030 HKT)
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1408 GMT (2208 HKT)
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT