In Tuesday's New York Times, columnist Tom Friedman warned that there was a climate of anger in the US that could lead to violence against President Barack Obama. This morning, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele called Friedman a "nutjob" for his remarks.
According to Friedman, "Criticism from the far right has begun tipping over into delegitimation and creating the same kind of climate here that existed in Israel on the eve of the [Yitzhak] Rabin assassination." Rabin, an Israeli prime minister, was killed by a right-wing Israeli radical in 1995.
In response, Steele said, "Where do these nutjobs come from? Come on, stop this."
"You're saying because you disagree with the president on policy, that all of the sudden we're going to make this leap into, you know, assassinations and all this other stuff," Steele continued. "I mean, at the height of all this stuff on Bush and people complaining and protesting, and jumping up and down, you didn't have this kind of conversation. Now all of the sudden you're going to color it because of a public policy debate in terms of, because the president is black."
Roberts countered that concerns may be well-founded: the Secret Service has reported an increase in threats.
"Threats against this president are at a level 400 percent higher than the former President Bush. How do we explain that?" Roberts asked.
Steele seemed incredulous. "No one ever reported on that level," he said.
In fact, a former member of the Secret Service has reported a 400 percent increase in threats.
The RNC chairman continued to suggest that warnings about threats to Obama are connected to the color of his skin. "I haven't seen that publicly put out there statistically to show that, but even if it is, this is my point. I think that we need to be very smart and very careful about jumping, making these leaps on race and connecting dots that may or may not exist there," Steele said.
This video is from CNN's American Morning, broadcast Sept. 30, 2009.