Republicans Mad That Obama Mentioned Ferguson in U.N. Speech

The president said the U.S. had its own "racial and ethnic tensions." Conservatives charged he was suggesting a moral equivalence with ISIS and resuming his "apology tour."

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Republicans don't want President Obama airing America's dirty laundry on the world stage.

The president's mention of the summertime racial unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, during a speech at the United Nations on Wednesday drew criticism from conservatives, who charged that Obama was resuming the "apology tour" that they saw during his first months in office.

"I was stunned," said former Vice President Dick Cheney, the erstwhile Obama critic, on Fox News.

Obama's reference to Ferguson came toward the end of his 35-minute speech, after he had chastised several other countries riven by war and condemned the Islamic State's "network of death" in unusually blunt terms.

The U.S., he was acknowledging, isn't perfect either.

I realize that America’s critics will be quick to point out that at times we too have failed to live up to our ideals; that America has plenty of problems within its own borders.  This is true.  In a summer marked by instability in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, I know the world also took notice of the small American city of Ferguson, Missouri -- where a young man was killed, and a community was divided.  So, yes, we have our own racial and ethnic tensions.  And like every country, we continually wrestle with how to reconcile the vast changes wrought by globalization and greater diversity with the traditions that we hold dear."

Obama then pivoted to say that America welcomes "he scrutiny of the world -- because what you see in America is a country that has steadily worked to address our problems, to make our union more perfect, to bridge the divides that existed at the founding of this nation."

What riled Republicans up was Obama's suggestion – as they interpreted it – that there was a "moral equivalence" between the brutal mayhem of ISIS and the clashes over the death of a single teenager, Michael Brown, in Ferguson.

"In one case you’ve got a police officer involved in a shooting – if there may be questions, they’ll be sorted out by the legal process," Cheney said.

But there’s no comparison to that with what ISIS is doing to thousands of people throughout the Middle East, with bloody beheadings of anyone they come in contact with.

I mean, to compare the two as if there’s some kind of moral equivalence there is, I think, outrageous."

On the same Fox program, Sean Hannity said Obama was "again apologizing for America on the world stage."

Elsewhere on the conservative network, Charles Krauthammer echoed the sentiment.

"This is a continuation of the apology tour, or the confession tour," he said, in a reference to Obama's first famous speech to the Muslim world in Cairo in 2009, when he said the U.S. had acted "contrary to our ideals" in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001.

Host Bret Baier even suggested Obama was revealing a state secret, wondering whether there were world leaders at the U.N. who were unaware of what happened in Ferguson.

The criticism also continued on Twitter.

The apology that Republicans would welcome from Obama would be for saluting a pair of Marines with a coffee cup on Tuesday.

But if Republicans had a point about his U.N. speech, it may be that Obama was preemptively responding to charges of hypocrisy that had not really been made – at least not by anyone the U.S. considers credible.

After all, the world leader who most loudly criticized (or trolled) the U.S. over Ferguson was none other than Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of Iran.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.