Race, Drudge, and the Obama Phone

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 27 2012 5:46 PM

Race, Drudge, and the Obama Phone

Here I was about to check into the Drudge'd, meme'd, Limbaugh'd video of a black woman saying she loved Obama because he "gave me a phone," and what do you know -- Ellie Reeve has done all the hard work already. The Drudge Report's video, and that woman, referred to a free-phones program that's existed since before Mitt Romney was born.

The universal service program dates back at least to the Telecommunications Act of 1934. The Lifeline program specifically was started in 1984 under President Reagan and was expanded in 1996 under President Clinton to allow qualifying households to choose to apply the benefit to either a landline or a cell phone. So no, it's not an Obama handout.
Shockingly, despite the bipartisan origins of the service, the idea of an "Obama Phone" for the undeserving has existed for a long time.
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You know what else has existed for a long time? The Drudge Report hyping up tabloid news that makes black people look like violent dopes who'll do anything for more goodies from Obama. Three years and 11 months ago, Drudge led with an unconfirmed story about a McCain volunteer who'd been "attacked and mutilated" in Pittsburgh, a "B carved into her face" by a black man. McCain himself called the volunteer, Ashley Todd. And then her story fell apart. Drudge (I'm referring to the man and his staff) knows its audience, and knows that stories of Black People Gone Wild will light up the Internet. We've got six weeks until the election, but this will by no means be the last such story on Drudge -- and by extension, around the conservative 'spheres. The trick for Republicans will be to avoid the McCain blunder, and back slooooowly away from this.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.