Conspiracy Theories

Michelle, Ma Belle, These Are Fears That Go Together Well

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Our own Dave Weigel has said most of what needs to be said about the latest Michelle Obama rumors, but Robert A. George has a post worth reading as well:

This is the '08 version of a really weird conservative urban legend that pops up every four years. The names change, but the basics remain the same: 1) It always involves the wife of the Democratic presidential candidate; 2) It always portrays the wife—not the candidate—committing some anti-American, unpatriotic act.

I was first exposed to this during the 1988 campaign when the line was, "There's a picture out there of Kitty Dukakis burning the American flag…just wait til that comes out…" (that one got out of hand when a GOP senator actually believed it and called a press conference to say he would soon produce the evidence—which never materialized). Four years later, "There's a picture out there of Hillary Clinton burning the American flag…just wait 'til that comes out…" In 1996, the Hillary thing repeated itself. In '04, there was a similar one about Teresa Heinz Kerry.

Differences this year: Because of the racial angle and Jeremiah Wright, Michelle Obama—and Louis Farrakhan, for good measure—are blaming "whitey." Because of YouTube, it's a clip, not a photo. Oh, and it's also real early: This urban legend isn't supposed to start making the rounds until September or so. Perhaps it's because this one has "crossed over"—Larry Johnson is a lefty blogger partial to Hillary, so he's caught up in the feverish wish that this might be true. Sorry, Larry, don't hold your breath.

George's last paragraph gets to why I never found this rumor credible. There was too much in the story; it felt like someone's racially charged imagination got carried away. Michelle Obama denounced "whitey"—and Farrakhan was there! And it was at Trinity Church! And remember that stuff Sister Souljah said about black-on-black crime? Obama said it too! (In other news, I hear there's a dynamite tape out there of John Kerry, Jane Fonda, and Dan Rather sharing a laugh after they spit on a Swift Boat veteran.)

Jim Geraghty has more:

Just as Robert George wrote this post on Ragged Thots about urban legends and Democratic nominee's wives, I was talking to someone who spent a good chunk of the 1988 campaign trying to track down a long-rumored photo of Kitty Dukakis throwing feces at the American flag in the 1960s. He never found it, and doubts that it ever happened, but he kept running into people who were convinced they saw it….

If we come out and see the tape, I'll be happy to say that I was wrong, and that I was too skeptical. But the Internet is full of these kinds of vague stories and rumors, stories where the evidence "will be revealed at the right time," which is always some unspecified point in the future, never today.

Final thought: You know those people who think any attack on Hillary Clinton just has to be a sign of sexism? What do they think of these attacks on Michelle Obama?

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  1. Jesse, Jesse, Jesse. Recycling your jokes from the comment threads? How did it come to this? Alcohol? Drugs? Women? Men? At least you changed Saddam to Dan Rather.

  2. It’s so sad that our elections are about this kind of stupid shit because people are OK with the socialist policies that Obama (and McCain) endorses.

  3. If I’m going to be called whitey, I’m buying a huge ring with an M stamped on it. Refer back to the movie Undercover Brother.

  4. “Final thought: You know those people who think any attack on Hillary Clinton just has to be a sign of sexism? What do they think of these attacks on Michelle Obama?”

    And don’t forget how the Clintons claimed in the 1990s that anyone who said a word about a candidate’s wife was being evil. But it is not like hypocrisy ever slowed down the Clintons.

  5. Has anyone heard a black person using the term “whitey” after about 1960? That’s what made me hinkey it was fake.

  6. “Jesse, Jesse, Jesse. Recycling your jokes from the comment threads?”
    But they really were too good to waste on the likes of us H&R thread rats, alone.

  7. A friend of a friend sent me the following partial transcript of Michelle Obama’s rant:

    He’ll rip you off. He’ll take your money, make you work for free. Though you may scoff. It isn’t funny. He’s the devil, see. Kill Whitey.

    Purple monkey dishwasher.

  8. Nothing beats this video of a young Obama contemplating life as a street tough: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pGTOquif7E

  9. “We’ll show her, especially for that “purple monkey dishwasher” remark!”

  10. I saw a clip of that, too, ClubMedSux.

    “Gorbochev sings tractors, buttocks.”

  11. It only takes a brief dip into the right-o-sphere to see why these rumors flourish; people are eager to believe the worst of these women, and eager to pass on what they hear. I read one comment that labeled her as a “quota queen”, a term that elegantly ties together Reagan’s “welfare queen” remark plus white resentment of affirmative action.

    This is the same thing that caused the news media to write all those stories about Obama not being “black enough” last year.

  12. Hey, fair game!
    They said the SAME THING about Fred Thompson’s wife! “Oh, she’s so FUCKED.” Remember that?
    Oh wait.
    They said, “God, I want to fuck her.”
    Never mind.

  13. “Gorbochev sings tractors, buttocks.”

    “Devil bunnies! I snort the nose, Lucifer. Banana! Banana!

    Oh, joe, God how I miss that strip …

  14. And we would have gotten away with it too, if not for you meddling kids!

  15. joe, my fav:

    “Reagan calls women ‘America’s little dumplings.’ “

  16. I remember those rumors we spread in 2004 that John Kerry had thrown his medals away and said our troops were behaving like Ghenghis Khan.

    And everyone believed he said, just because it was part of the Senate Record! Mwahahahaha!

    Ah, the good old days.

  17. “Gorbochev sings tractors, buttocks.”

    Did you just make a Bloom County joke, joe? You goofed it (it’s “Gorbochev sings tractors: Turnip! Buttocks!”), but nice reference.

  18. It only takes a brief dip into the right-o-sphere to see why these rumors flourish;

    It always amuses me that even when a smear is done by a Dem (“whitey”, Willie Horton), lots of people blame the Repubs.

    Are there any counterexamples? Repub smears that get blamed on Dems?

  19. Kill Whitey My Landlord.

  20. Funny how so many fingers quickly try to point to the first black, er…African American (ignoring the other half as is common) presidential candidate as being the racist candidate. That’s of course not impossible but doesn’t strike me as at all likely in this case even though I’ll admit I sensed a bit of the Malcolm X anger and bitterness vibe in Michelle Obama at first sight. I think it complements Obama’s almost complete lack of it nicely.

  21. I thought Willie Horton was Bush the elder. Could be wrong though.

  22. R C Dean,

    I think I’m going to send you a shirt that says “I’m what Willis was talkin’ bout”.

  23. Terry Kerry wasn’t accused of flag burning, so the trend stops there. Oh, you meant the smears? Sorry.

    Terry Kerry was just an idiot with a big mouth. She annoyed people by saying things like she was an African American.

    Might have been technically true, but she really was a spoiled rich bitch white chick raised in Mozambique with servants.

  24. “I thought Willie Horton was Bush the elder. Could be wrong though.”

    No it was Al Gore who originally brought up the issue and made a TV commercial out of it. Bush the elder just capitalized on it.

  25. Al Gore never made a commercial, or mentioned William (never called “Willie”) Horton by name.

    It was an “independent” Repblican group that made the ad.

  26. Are there any counterexamples? Repub smears that get blamed on Dems?

    The difference is, those get published on 60 Minutes.

    Just ask Dan Rather.

  27. TallDave,

    I guess that was Hillary’s mistake on this issue. She should have gotten Nell Carter and Cedric the Entertainer to play Michelle and Farakahn respecively in a tape and given it to Rather and Mary Mapes to do 60 minutes story on it. They could have just told them that “the narative is right, who cares if the facts are wrong.”

  28. There are no Democrat smears on the opposition, WTF are you talking about boys?

  29. What do I think? I think, “Please, more political attacks on michelle obama!”

  30. To put it mildly, I am no fan of Hillary Clinton. However if she had gotten Nell Carter and Cedric the Entertainer to play Michelle and Farakahn, I might have voted for her out of fear of her supernatural abilities(seeing as how Nell Carter died in 2003).

  31. Why would you need to manufacture anything on Michelle?

    Her own quotes in the NYT are bad enough.

  32. When have Republicans ever been constrained by reality? The phantom video clip of Michelle Obama blasting Whitey probably lies next to Joe McCarthy’s list of Communists in the State Department.

  33. I remember those rumors we spread in 2004 that John Kerry had thrown his medals away and said our troops were behaving like Ghenghis Khan.

    Wasn’t there a zinger about Kerry getting one purple heart for a stubbed toe or a hangnail or something?

    These crazy Republicans, they’re too much sometimes!

  34. “When have Republicans ever been constrained by reality? The phantom video clip of Michelle Obama blasting Whitey probably lies next to Joe McCarthy’s list of Communists in the State Department.”

    Yeah because leftys never beleive anything crazy like 9-11 being an inside job or police cars showing up all over Florida to keep black people from voting or every Hurricane being the product of global warming. No Never.

    I will defer to your knowledge of Nell Carter. So maybe she could have gotten Queen Latifah to play Michelle.

  35. Is it just me, or is there a 50s-era Warner Brothers cartoon feel to the Repblican Attack Machine this time around?7

    Heh heh heh, dat wascally wabbit. I’ll get him this time for sure!

    Briggs and Stratton builds a hell of an engine, fellas, but you still have to replace it every thirty or forty years.

  36. Might have been technically true, but she really was a spoiled rich bitch white chick raised in Mozambique with servants.

    Replace “raised in Mozambique” with “home wrecking” and you’ve just described Cindy McCain.

  37. “Is it just me, or is there a 50s-era Warner Brothers cartoon feel to the Repblican Attack Machine this time around?7”

    So Hillary is a Republican now Joe? Don’t drag them into your family squabbles.

  38. John,
    Are you wearing reverse beer goggles? Michelle Obama is a few stones shy of Queen Latifa and Nell Carter.

    And truthers know no political party. There are some truthers that are Paultards too.

  39. Might have been technically true, but she really was a spoiled rich bitch white chick raised in Mozambique with servants.

    Replace “raised in Mozambique” with “home wrecking” and you’ve just described Cindy McCain.

    There’s nothing so bad about Cindy McCain that the words “beer heiress” do not immediately erase.

  40. Mo,

    I am having a hard time thinking of black actressess today. How about Felicia Rashard? That might work.

  41. A few readers don’t share my skepticism about the alleged Michelle Obama tape, and wonder why I doubt the HillBuzz account, because it is so “detailed.”

    When will people learn that excessive detail is often a sign of a lie? In some cases its almost a dead give-away.

    Thats when I knew the Duke Lacrosse Rape-case girl was lying. Real rape victims do not remember details because of the trauma. When asked they say “I can’t remember”. Fakers think that these details will make their story more accurate and so they pretend to remember many specific details that a rape-victim wouldn’t usually remember. When these details contradict with known facts then they change their story. Often this happens many times before the story settles down. This is the hallmark of the fake accuser.

  42. Joe McCarthy’s list of Communists in the State Department.

    I still got the mojo ::whistles::

  43. Joe McCarthy’s list of Communists in the State Department.

    At least the crimes of the state against them are still vilified to this very day. What about me?

  44. This rumor has ‘designed to blow up in the faces of the Republican punditry’ written all over it. Republicans have egg on their faces, and any legitimate concerns about Michelle are made less so in comparison to the outrageous Stokey Carmichael like caricature. Pretty sweet set up.

  45. “Thats when I knew the Duke Lacrosse Rape-case girl was lying. Real rape victims do not remember details because of the trauma. When asked they say “I can’t remember”. Fakers think that these details will make their story more accurate and so they pretend to remember many specific details that a rape-victim wouldn’t usually remember. When these details contradict with known facts then they change their story. Often this happens many times before the story settles down. This is the hallmark of the fake accuser.”

    That is a really good point. I knew the Duke LaCross case was crap as soon as the government didn’t have any defendents turning state’s evidence. No one goes to jail for the fraternity. If a large group of people had raped that women, one of them would have been gone to the DA and made a deal to testify. When none of them did, I knew the accusation was crap.

  46. I was talking to someone who spent a good chunk of the 1988 campaign trying to track down a long-rumored photo of Kitty Dukakis throwing feces at the American flag in the 1960s.

    That was just a plan to get that idiot in a tank and you know it.

    Anyway the most right wing media I consume would be Rush and I think he scooped you by 3-4 days on this being a fake.

    His take was that if it existed it would have been seen by now.

  47. Al Gore never made a commercial, or mentioned William (never called “Willie”) Horton by name.

    I think joe’s right on this one. Al Gore brought up the furlough program in a debate shortly before he dropped out. The Repubs did a little digging and came up with the very photogenic Mr. Horton.

  48. There is no tape!

    There is no tape!

    No really, I mean it: there is no video. At least, for the next few months.

  49. Has anyone heard a black person using the term “whitey” after about 1960? That’s what made me hinkey it was fake.

    I hear it all the time.

    I split my work time between Jackson, MS and Louisville, KY. I hear that term all the time with the younger generation employees in my company, which is mostly what I work with. They’ve even referred to me with that term when they didn’t like me busting their balls for unprofessional behavior in a corporate environment.

    Obviously my busting their balls was not of any use.

    It’s a different world in some places. And it’s not always what you THINK it’s like in those places.

  50. I think joe’s right on this one.

    More or less. Al Gore first criticized the furlough issue, Repubs ran with it.

    The first person to mention the Massachusetts furlough program in the 1988 presidential campaign was Al Gore. During a debate at the Felt Forum sponsored by the New York Daily News, Gore took issue with the furlough program. However, he did not specifically mention the Horton incident or even mention Horton’s name.

    The incident itself was pretty bad.

    On June 6, 1986, he was released as part of a weekend furlough program but did not return. On April 3, 1987 in Oxon Hill, Maryland, Horton twice raped a local woman after pistol-whipping, knifing, binding, and gagging her fianc?. He then stole the car belonging to the man he had assaulted, but was later captured by police after a chase. On October 20, Horton was sentenced in Maryland to two consecutive life terms plus 85 years. The sentencing judge, Vincent J. Femia, refused to return Horton to Massachusetts, saying, “I’m not prepared to take the chance that Mr. Horton might again be furloughed or otherwise released. This man should never draw a breath of free air again.”

    Gee, I can’t understand how Dukakis lost.

  51. I agree with Boogieman. This feels like a setup, just like the forged National Guard docs seemed like an elaborate Republican plan to discredit critics of Bush’s military service.

  52. Al Gore never made a commercial, or mentioned William (never called “Willie”) Horton by name.

    He was too busy toiling in his basement lab working on an invention that would change everthing, THE INTERNET

  53. Has Barack denounced his preacher for saying 9/11 was God’s retribution for our sins? That should kill his support on the atheist left. Obama’s clergy make Robertson and Falwell look good

  54. R C Dean | June 5, 2008, 3:07pm | #

    Are there any counterexamples? Repub smears that get blamed on Dems?

    I don’t know if I’d call a smear, but the silly bit about McCain not being an American Citizen because he was born in the Canal Zone apparently started with Ron Paul supporters and has been blamed on Democrats.

  55. “Has anyone heard a black person using the term “whitey” after about 1960? That’s what made me hinkey it was fake.”

    There were a lot of uses of that kind of thing in the recent film Talk to Me starring Cheadle of OCeans 11 fame (imagine a film of a racist white hero like that). And Sanford and Son was post 1960-s, right?

  56. For everyone’s information, there was no Rainbow Push Coalition event at Trinity Church in 2004. It was actually held at the Sheraton Hotel in Chicago that year. In addition, Michelle Obama was not a speaker. There is no tape due to the fact that the event mentioned in this rumor never took place. One sure way to logically determine the truth of these myths is for clear thinking people to check the facts. Michelle Obama, if she chose to use derogatory language would certainly be able to come up with something a little less archaic than “whitey.”

  57. Have you gone berserk? Can’t you see that (wo)man is a ni?

  58. So Hillary is a Republican now Joe? Don’t drag them into your family squabbles.

    The source of the rumor was a Clintonite, but the noise machine that picked it up and got egga all over their faces was NRO and the rest of the right-wing blogosphere.

  59. I think he said “That woman is near.”

  60. So did the VRWC co-opt Johnson, or did Johnson co-opt the VRWC? FWIW, I think a tool is a tool whether he or she’s left or right-wing.

  61. He was too busy toiling in his basement lab working on an invention that would change everthing, THE INTERNET

    Actually, I think by then the Internet and he had moved on to his next, Nobel Prize-winning invention: global warming.

  62. *Actually, I think by then the Internet was done and he had moved on to his next, Nobel Prize-winning invention: global warming.

  63. I only saw a few right-of-center sites mention the alleged tape, and it was mostly in the vein of “Larry Johnson is probably full of crap, but…”

    Anyways, if there actually is an embarassing tape, I trust it will be released 48 hours before voting starts, just like Bush’s DUI was in 2000.

  64. Michelle Obama has already scared me sufficiently with this bit:
    “He (Barack Obama) will make you work. You will never be able to go back to your old lives, uninvolved, uninformed.”
    When they don’t even hide behind euphemisms, you know you’re in trouble.

  65. economist,

    She was addressing a room full of campaign volunteers.

    Which makes it a bit different.

  66. “Has Barack denounced his preacher for saying 9/11 was God’s retribution for our sins? That should kill his support on the atheist left. Obama’s clergy make Robertson and Falwell look good”

    Worse than this, huh?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-CAcdta_8I
    (Falwell and Robertson on The 700 Club after 9/11)

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