House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) on July 16 said while Republicans disagreed with former president Barack Obama, they “never disrespected the office.” (Reuters)
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) made quite an assertion Tuesday about how Republicans treated President Barack Obama while he was in office.
“We had disagreements with a lot of Barack Obama’s policies, but we never disrespected the office,” Scalise said, one day after Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) referred to President Trump as the “occupant of the White House” in a news conference.
“I called him president of the United States, as we all did,” Scalise said. “If he asked us to go meet with him at the White House, we went. We expressed our disagreements in a respectful way, but what they continue to do to go after him personally, to call for impeachment of the president from day one …”
In Scalise’s framing, “disrespect” seems to hinge on calls for impeachment, attending White House meetings and referring to the president obliquely.
While it is true that House Republicans often used the word “president” when referring to Obama, some conservative media personalities, such as Sean Hannity, pointedly did not. Others called him president but questioned his patriotism, for instance in 2015, when Rudolph W. Giuliani said he did not “believe” Obama “loves America.”
But when Obama invited congressional Republicans to the White House, they often ignored him.
The New York Times in 2011 reported:
Congressional Republicans have turned down requests for White House meetings, refused to return the president’s call and walked out of budget talks. [And] Speaker John A. Boehner became what historians say was the first ever to tell a sitting president that no, he could not deliver an address to a joint session of Congress on the date of his choice.
Here are other times Republican “respect” for Obama was on display.
In 2009, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) yelled “You lie!” at Obama during an address to Congress.
In 2011, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) apologized to Obama after calling him a “tar baby.”
In 2012, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said it was time to send Obama “home to Kenya.”
Amid negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program in 2015, Republican leaders broke normal procedure and invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress.
In 2016, Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) prayed that Obama’s “days be few, and let another have his office.”
A House Republican staffer resigned in 2014 after she told Sasha and Malia Obama to show “a little class.”
And in 2011, Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) said first lady Michelle Obama, “lectures us on eating right while she has a large posterior herself.” (Sensenbrenner apologized the next day.)
More than a dozen congressional Republicans did not dismiss the birther conspiracy theory in 2009. In conservative media, there was near-endless coverage of Obama’s religion, vacations, golf trips and alleged communist and socialist ties throughout his presidency, examples of which you can watch in the video I made for HuffPost in 2016.
History Won’t Forget How Obama Was Treated
During a July 2014 appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Scalise was asked four times whether he wanted to impeach Obama.
Rather than rule out impeachment, Scalise dodged the question four times.