April 25, 2012

Obama '12: Head Scarves in the Rear View Mirror


At a rally for Senator Barack Obama in Detroit on Monday, two Muslim women said they were prohibited from sitting behind the candidate because they were wearing head scarves and campaign volunteers did not want them to appear with him in news photographs or live television coverage.

The Obama campaign said it quickly called the women to apologize after learning of the incident. “It doesn’t reflect the orientation of the campaign,” said Anita Dunn, a senior adviser to Mr. Obama. “I do not believe that mistake will be made again.”

from: Obama’s Campaign Tightens Control of Image and Access. June 19, 2008. NYT.

What a difference four years make.

The two paragraphs above open a NYT article published four years ago after the Obama campaign, facing a non-stop high decible onslaught of right-wing hate mongering about his heritage, “dissuaded” two Muslim women in headscarves from sitting behind the candidate at a rally before almost 20,000 people at the Joe Louis Arena in downtown Detroit the evening Obama received Al Gore’s presidential endorsement. (Video.)

A week after the Detroit rally, the media — which seemed almost as eager as the right wing to amplify these attacks, the episode with Rev. Jeremiah Wright oozing ink and pixels for weeks (1, 2) — was still buzzing about “headscarf-gate.” Case in point, the NYT offered up a background piece on the front page (Muslim Voters Detect a Snub From Obama) belaboring the campaign’s concern over optics (he’ll go to a synagogue, but mosques are off the table!). Check out the photo and caption that ran with the story reproduced above, the photo, by the way, also leading the front page of the June 24, 2008 print edition:

Obama NYT Clip Islamic Snub

And, talk about the politics of photo editing. The photo, which would almost immediately suggest the two Muslim women from the Detroit rally being relegated to the upper decks of the arena, was — if you notice the caption — actually taken in Minneapolis four months prior.

This extended digression into one of the slimiest stretches of Campaign ’08 is simply inspired by the newswire photo at the top of this post taken during Obama’s appearance before 11,000 at the University of Colorado – Boulder Events Center on Tuesday. Perhaps the most noteworthy thing about it, though, is how non-noteworthy it was. Because the photo showed up next-to-nowhere (as opposed to others), we could say that this cultural figure, with a mother from Kansas and a father from Kenya, has actually come a long way.

(photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images caption: US President Barack Obama shakes hands while leaving after speaking at University of Colorado Boulder April 24, 2012 in Boulder, Colorado. President Obama is on a two day trip through the 2012 US Presidential race battle ground states of North Carolina, Colorado and Iowa where he is speaking about the cost of student loans and other issues.)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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