“Are there folks whose primary concern about me has been that I seem foreign ― the other? Are those who champion the birther movement feeding off of bias?” Obama asked rhetorically. “Absolutely.”
Along with interviewing Obama, Zakaria narrated segments of the CNN special. He pointed out that the president “doesn’t see racism in mainstream opposition to him, but he does see it on the fringes.”
”I think there’s a reason attitudes about my presidency among whites in northern states are very different from whites in southern states,” Obama told Zakaria.
Race has been a constant theme throughout the first African-American president’s two terms, from addressing the all-too-common fatal shootings of black youths by police to enduring unsubstantiated claims about his citizenship from the birther movement, which President-elect Donald Trump has largely led.
David Axelrod, former senior advisor to Obama, also appeared on the show and addressed the racial undercurrent plaguing his presidency.
“It’s indisputable that there was a ferocity to the opposition and a lack of respect to him that was a function of race,” he said.
CNN aired its primetime special “The Legacy of Barack Obama” Wednesday night. The two-hour program also touched on the overall question of how Trump’s administration could dismantle Obama’s legacy.