September 16, 2009
Posted: 11:36 AM ET
(CNN) - Former President Jimmy Carter said Tuesday that racial politics played a role in South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson's outburst during President Obama's speech to Congress last week and in some of the opposition the president has faced since taking office.
"I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he's African-American," Carter told "NBC Nightly News." "I live in the South, and I've seen the South come a long way, and I've seen the rest of the country that shares the South's attitude toward minority groups at that time, particularly African-Americans."
"That racism inclination still exists, and I think it's bubbled up to the surface because of belief among many white people - not just in the South but around the country - that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country. It's an abominable circumstance, and it grieves me and concerns me very deeply," Carter said.
Michael Steele, who is the first African-American to chair the Republican National Committee, denied Wednesday that race is fueling protests.
"President Carter is flat-out wrong," Steele said in a statement. "This isn't about race. It is about policy."
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