Barack Obama has criticized two Republican presidential hopefuls, the South Carolina senator Tim Scott and the former UN ambassador Nikki Haley, over their stances on race relations in America.
On a podcast interview, Obama, who became the first Black US president when he was elected in 2008, said that while presenting a hopeful message on race relations was important, “that has to be undergirded with an honest accounting of our past and our present”.
Scott is the only Black candidate in the 2024 presidential primary race and Haley is Indian American.
Asked about Scott’s messaging, Obama said there was sometimes a tendency among Republican candidates to gloss over the effects of racism, arguing that candidates need to address racial disparities to be taken seriously on the subject of American unity.
“There’s a long history of African American or other minority candidates within the Republican party who will validate America and say, ‘Everything’s great, and we can make it,’” Obama told the Democratic strategist David Axelrod on the CNN-hosted Axe Files. He added that he thought Nikki Haley “has a similar approach”.
Obama said that approach does not include “a plan for how do we address crippling generational poverty that is a consequence of hundreds of years of racism in this society, and we need to do something about that.
“If that candidate is not willing to acknowledge that, again and again, we’ve seen discrimination in everything from … getting a job to buying a house to how the criminal justice system operates,” he added.
That prompted a pushback from Scott, a former insurance agent, who has said “Racism is real. It is alive,” but argues that his success as a Black man is not exceptional but representative of progress.
Scott responded to Obama’s comments, telling the conservative radio host Mark Levin that the president had “missed a softball moving at slow speed with a big bat”.
In a Twitter post later on Thursday, Scott said: “Let us not forget we are a land of opportunity, not a land of oppression. Democrats deny our progress to protect their power,” he wrote. “The left wants you to believe faith in America is a fraud and progress in our nation is a myth.
“The truth of MY life disproves the lies of the radical left,” Scott continued. “We live in a country where little Black and Brown boys and girls can be president of the United States. The truth is – we’ve had one and the good news is – we will have another,” he added.
Separately, Nikki Haley took issue with Obama’s position.
“Barack Obama set minorities back by singling them out as victims instead of empowering them,” Haley told the New York Post. “In America, hard work and personal responsibility matter. My parents didn’t raise me to think that I would forever be a victim. They raised me to know that I was responsible for my success.”
Edward Helmore in New York
Published: 2023-06-16 14:18:19