NASHVILLE — Republican congressional hopeful Robin Smith says that, when she was state GOP chairman last year, then-Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama labeled her as “everything from racist to terrorist to extremist” after the state party posted a video criticizing Michelle Obama.
Mrs. Smith, who is running in the 3rd Congressional District primary, made the assertion in a recently videotaped interview with Helen Smith, a commentator for the conservative Internet Web site Pajamas TV. Dr. Smith, no relation to the candidate, asked why more women do not run for office.
“From personal experience I can tell you ... I was called everything from racist to terrorist to extremist by Barack Obama himself when we put the Michelle Obama video out about how, for the first time in her adult life, she was proud to be an American,” Mrs. Smith said.
In May 2008, the state GOP posted on YouTube a video zeroing in on comments Mrs. Obama made months earlier when she said “for the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country.”
The video replayed her comments a half dozen times, interspersed with comments from various state Republicans saying why they were proud of America.
After news about the video went national, Mr. Obama, during an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” said “whoever is in charge of the Tennessee GOP needs to think long and hard about the kind of campaign they want to run, and I think that’s true for everybody, Democrat or Republican ... I also think these folks should lay off my wife.”
On Thursday, members of Mrs. Smith’s campaign steered away from pinpointing exactly when Mr. Obama referred to Mrs. Smith as an extremist, racist or terrorist.
“Robin made it clear in July that the campaign now is about 2010, not 2008,” her campaign spokesman, Mark Winslow, said in an e-mail. “As far as we’re concerned the book is closed on debating and redebating a year-old issue. Barack Obama is president and Robin Smith does not agree with his liberal policies.”
Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester, who earlier this year did call Mrs. Smith a racist, said Thursday that her latest comments are “just one more example of her unwillingness to answer for the deeds she did as chairman of the party last year when she participated in racist attacks on House candidates and Barack Obama.”
He cited a 2008 state GOP news release that talked about “anti-Semites for Obama,” referred to Mr. Obama by his full name — Barack Hussein Obama — and featured a picture of Mr. Obama in “Muslim” garb. It turned out the robes were traditional Kenyan robes.
In response, Mr. Winslow said, “It’s easy to recollect Chip saying something about racism. He does it every day. ... His continuing obsession with Robin seems to be getting old, even among Democrats.”
Efforts to contact a White House spokesman were unsuccessful.
Republicans running in the 3rd Congressional District primary also include attorney Chuck Fleischmann, Bradley County Sheriff Tim Gobble, businessmen Tommy Crangle and Art Rhodes and engineer Greg Goodwin. Democrats Paula Flowers, a former state commerce and insurance commissioner, and systems analyst Brent Benedict are running, as well.
Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...