Apr
23
2012

Obama's Not Quite Silver Spoon Swipe UPDATED

Last week Barack Obama declared some sort of class war on Mitt Romney–at least that's what Fox, the New York Post and a few other outlets would have you believe.

On April 18, Obama gave a speech at a community college touting, among other things, a rather common only-in-America underdog spirit:

Somebody gave me an education. I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth. Michelle wasn't. But somebody gave us a chance–just like these folks up here are looking for a chance.

The next day, as blogger Michael Thaddeus pointed out (4/21/12), Fox host Steve Doocy added a few words to the quote during an interview with Mitt Romney. According to Doocy 4/19/12), Obama had used some "fiery rhetoric" and had actually said this:

Unlike some people, I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth.

We know who "some people" is, right? And so with that we had a campaign story. Over at the Washington Post website we see this headline: "Mitt Romney Responds to Obama's 'Silver Spoon' Swipe." The story, by Philip Rucker, has since been corrected–sort of. ("An earlier version of this post incorrectly quoted President Obama's reference to not being born with a silver spoon in his mouth.")

But even the accounts that got the quote right were still seeing it as a swipe at Romney. At the top of ABC's This Week (4/22/12):

STEPHANOPOULOS: And the general election gets down and dirty early.

OBAMA: I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth.

ROMNEY: Even if you like Barack Obama, we can't afford Barack Obama.

And the New York Times (4/19/12):

Mr. Obama is trying to broaden his appeal by pressing an argument of economic fairness and questioning whether a rich candidate like Mr. Romney can understand people's challenges.

"I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth," Mr. Obama said in his speech at the community college. "Michelle wasn't. But somebody gave us a chance."

And the Murdoch-owned New York Post turned in a blistering editorial (4/20/12):

Romney has every right to be proud of his family's accomplishments–as well as his own.

Even as Obama tries to portray it as repugnant–as he did this week with a remark that prompted the former Massachusetts governor's response.

"Unlike some people, I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth," Obama said.

That's not just snotty–it's woefully ignorant of the American spirit.

The Post has since corrected the editorial, leaving the quote as it was spoken–which might make it difficult for readers to understand what exactly might be considered "snotty" about expressing pride in the distance one has traveled from a rather humble upbringing. And as John Dickerson pointed out at Slate (4/20/12), Obama has been saying this kind of thing for years.

And just think: The campaign season is just getting started.

UPDATE: Doocy issued something like a correction today (4/24/12): "I did some paraphrasing that seemed to misquote the president." That's funny, but not nearly as funny as Stephen Colbert's take, which you can see here.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.