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article imageBreitbert's video of Obama at Harvard 'race' rally released

By JohnThomas Didymus     Mar 8, 2012 in Politics
The video Breitbart promised would "blow the lid off" Obama's presidency has been released. Analysts are unable to see just what is "damning" about the clip showing Obama speaking at a 1991 protest demanding tenure for black female law professors.

Watch Obama Speaks at Harvard Law in '90 on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

Buzz Feed released a version of the video on Wednesday. Buzz Feed staff Andrew Kaczynski, according to San Francisco Chronicle, commented about the video:
"In this video, not previously available online but licensed by Buzz Feed from a Boston television station, the future president speaks at a 1991 campus protest organized to demand tenure for minority and female law professors.
… As President of the Harvard Law Review in the spring of his final year there, 1991, he aligned himself with Professor Derrick Bell’s dramatic protest for diversity on the faculty of Harvard Law School.
(Bell’s) protest that spring was occasioned by Harvard’s denial of tenure to a black woman professor, Regina Austin, at a time when only three of the law school’s professors were black and only five women."
The 1991 video licensed by WGBH Boston, shows a young Obama speaking in support of the faculty diversity movement. In the video, he speaks in support of Harvard's first tenured black law professor, Derrick Bell, who, according to Huffington Post, was protesting lack of female black professors at Harvard. Bell, in protest, took an unpaid leave until Harvard hired a woman of color.
Bell, at the time of the protest, said: "My major effort in teaching is to convince students...that they should be ready and able to take risks and make sacrifices for the things they believe in, and their real success in life will come from making those sacrifices and taking those risks, regardless of outcome. The best way to teach that is to practice it."
In the video, Obama, who was then president of the Harvard Law Review, speaks while Professor Bell stands nearby. Obama relates an anecdote about how Bell spoke at an orientation of first-year students. Obama, praising Bell, said: "I remember him sauntering up to the front and not giving us a lecture, but engaging us in a conversation and speaking the truth." Obama praised Bell's accomplishments with a display of the sense of humor Americans have become familiar with after he became president: "Now, how did this one man do all of this? How has he accomplished all of this? He hasn't done it simply by his good looks and easy charm, although he has both in ample measure." Obama urged everyone: "Open your hearts and open your minds to the words of Professor Derrick Bell."
Huffington Post comments on Obama's public speaking skills:
"Obama doesn't sound much different than he does today, though his presentation has improved (he keeps his hands stuffed in his pockets during his entire speech). He employs his now-signature charm, flattering Bell's 'good looks' and the 'excellence of his scholarship.'"
The Hill also comments:
"Although he appears with less grey hair and wears khakis, the then-president of the Harvard Law Review is seen drawing cheers from the crowd and speaking with the same tone and manner he greets audiences with today."
However,, reacting to being scooped by Buzz Feed, said the video was "selectively edited," and promised that the full unedited video will be released. According to
"...the video has been selectively edited–either by the Boston television station or by Buzzfeed itself. Over the course of the day, will be releasing additional footage that has been hidden by Obama’s allies in the mainstream media and academia."
Buzz Feed, however, denied editing the video, saying the video they purchased from WGBH was published in its entirety.
New York Magazine reports that on Wednesday night, two editors of, Joel Pollak (Editor-in-Chief) and Ben Shapiro (Editor-at-Large), appeared on Sean Hannity's Fox Show, to discuss the one-minute clip. The released a version of the video that differed from Buzz Feed's only where it showed Obama hugging Bell.
According New York Magazine, Pollak and Shapiro accused Buzz Feed of not including in their version of the clip, the scene where Obama hugged Derrick Bell. They accused Buzz Feed of not releasing a clip of Charles Ogletree, saying at a conference: "Of course we hid this throughout the 2008 campaign. I don't care if they find this now." Hannity also accused the media of having failed for not finding and showing the video to the public earlier.
Huffington Post comments that though the clip of the two men hugging may not be well known, it wasn't really "hidden from public." According to Huffignton Post: "It was included in the 2008 FRONTLINE special, 'The Choice 2008.'"
So just what is damning about the video?
Keith Boykin, a former Harvard campus activist in the movement for faculty diversity, recalls Obama's role: "Barack was always supportive and sympathetic to our campaign for faculty diversity. He spoke about it at one of our rallies. But he was not actively involved in the protest movement. Nor did he need to be. As I said, his presence alone made the case. And even if he agreed with the cause of the movement, he didn't need to be involved in the more radical protests we launched because our tactics were controversial on campus."
Boykin's testimony absolves Obama of intimate involvement in the campus diversity movement. He said that the two of them were well known on campus for very different reasons: "We were not close friends, but we were both well known on campus for entirely different reasons. Barack was something of a celebrity on campus even in law school. That's because he was the first black student elected as president of the prestigious Harvard Law Review. I, on the other hand, was a campus activist, deeply involved in the movement for faculty diversity."
New York Magazine comments that Breitbart's claim that he had a video that would "blow the lid off Obama's presidency" turns out "almost entirely hype." Apparently, Breitbart had felt that the video was "damning" because it associated Obama with radical racial agenda. But Boykin recollects that Obama was not intimately involved in the faculty diversity movement. He only agreed to lend his name to what seemed a just cause.
As Ogletree commented in the reported clip, "Breitbart's" video could have been damning in 2008, but now in 2012, it is difficult to see just what is "damning" about it.
More about harvard protest, Derrick Bell, diversity movement, Harvard, Andrew Breitbart
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