President Obama's spokesman said Tuesday that he doesn't think racism is to blame for the budget and debt impasse with congressional Republicans, two days after an anti-Obama demonstrator waved a Confederate flag in front of the White House in the midst of tea-party backed protest.
The question arose at the White House daily press briefing, when reporter April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks asked presidential press secretary Jay Carney if the government shutdown is being fueled by racial animosity against the president.
"Sunday we saw a situation at the White House … where race was involved," Ms. Ryan said, referring to the Confederate flag. "And many persons are saying part of this now has to do with race because the president is indeed an African-American, a black man. Is race a part of this stalemate, this conversation?"
Mr. Carney replied, "I don't believe that that's the issue here."
"I believe that this is a decision by … Republicans [to] shut the government down not because every Republican wanted it, but because Republican leaders in the House were listening to a faction within their own conference," Mr. Carney said, referring to the tea party.
On Sunday, a protest at the World War II memorial on the National Mall featured tea party stalwarts such as Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
The demonstration eventually moved to the gates at the White House, where some of the demonstrators carried metal barricades from the memorial to protest the closure of national parks and monuments.
Michael Ashmore of Hooks, Tex., among the many who converged on Washington for the "Million Vet March on the Memorials," waved a Confederate flag in front of the White House. His actions prompted outrage from some on the left.
"Yes, a man waved a Confederate flag in front of the home of an African-American family," the Rev. Al Sharpton, a White House ally, wrote in the Huffington Post. "And the elected officials who organized, spoke, marched or promoted this rally are just as responsible as that man for this ugly display of bigotry. If Ted Cruz and others want us to believe that they don't despise minorities and that they are trying to make their party more 'inclusive,' then they need to start acting like it. A great first step would be to condemn this disgusting, inexcusable act."
Mr. Carney turned the question about racial motivations into a call for simply reopening the government.
"When it comes to the essential responsibility to ensure that the United States pays its bills, that Congress [should] be able to take that action so that this threat is removed and everybody, Republicans and Democrats, can get about the business of discussing and negotiating over our budget priorities," Mr. Carney said.
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