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Breitbart’s Obama college video turns out to be a dud, sparks race debate

Dylan Stableford, Yahoo News
The Ticket

Andrew Breitbart's promised video of Barack Obama's college days at Harvard University was released in full on Sean Hannity's Fox News show on Wednesday night—and unlike the late conservative provocateur's other video hits, this one appears to be a bit of a dud.

The video—which sent some conservatives into a frenzy when Breitbart told an audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last month that he had the footage—shows Obama, then a Harvard law student, introducing former Harvard Law Professor Derrick Bell, who Breitbart.com editor-in-chief Joel Pollak called the "Jeremiah Wright of academia."

Harvard law professor Charles Ogletree had the footage from 1990 and is shown presenting it to an audience after the 2008 election. "We hid this during the 2008 campaign," Ogletree can be heard saying. "I don't care if they find it now."

Pollak and conservatives contend that the video is another example of Obama's history of chumminess with radicals, and the proof of the left's continuing efforts to cover it up.

But as PBS' Andrew Golis noted, "there's nothing new about the clip or Obama's role in the controversy at Harvard Law School."

"In 2008, as a part of our quadrennial election special The Choice 2008," Golis wrote, "Frontline ran the same footage of the speech as a part of an exploration of Obama's time at Harvard Law School, where he graduated in 1991. It's been online at our site and on YouTube since then." Golis added that Frontline obtained the footage from the archives of WGBH, PBS' Boston affiliate. (More on the back story.)

"Is that it?" Soledad O'Brien asked Pollak in an interview on Thursday morning. "What part of that was the bombshell? Because I missed it."

Pollack responded: "The bombshell is the revelation of the relationship between Obama and Derrick Bell ... [Derrick Bell] passed away last year, but during his lifetime he developed a theory called critical race theory, which holds that the Civil Rights movement was a sham and that white supremacy is the order and it must be overthrown."

The interview quickly devolved into an argument over the definition of critical race theory, with Jay Thomas, a Sirius radio host and a panelist on O'Brien's show, jumping into the fray.

"Can I say something as a white person?" Thomas asked Pollak. "What are you frightened of? Are you frightened that some black people are going to do something to you? ... What do you think Barack Obama's going to do? Is there a secret black movement that's going to start killing white people?"

The conversation got worse from there. "I'm glad you played the racism card," Pollak fired back. "You've accused me of being a racist. You've accused me of being afraid of black people. And it doesn't deserve a response. But let me respond anyway. I'm not afraid black people are going to be violent and take over the country. What I'm pointing out is that there's a pattern in Barack Obama's associations with Derrick Bell, with Reverend Wright, and it carries over into his governance because his Justice Department won't treat black civil rights violators the same way it treats white civil rights violators."

Journalists took to Twitter to poke fun at the controversy. "Breitbart's CPAC speech = Lana Del Ray's 'Video Games' video," Slate's Dave Weigel wrote on Twitter. "Actual Obama tape = Lana Del Ray on 'SNL.'"

On CNN, Pollak promised more footage and more bombshells from Breitbart's archives. "This is the beginning of a vetting process that begins with Andrew Breitbart's probe into Barack Obama's time in Chicago and will continue," he said.

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