Even though he’s had a relatively scandal-free presidency compared to his predecessors, Barack Obama’s two terms have nonetheless been marked by one controversy after another inside the conservative media bubble. In the age of the 24-hour news cycle, even the silliest non-stories get blown up into potential national crises, and Fox News and talk radio are always eager to gin up some kind of outrage to keep viewers and listeners tuned in to get their anger fix.
With this in mind, we thought we’d take a look back at five times Obama did completely normal things that nonetheless made conservatives hilariously lose their shit.
1.) Obama asks for Dijon mustard with his hamburger
The oldest trick in the conservative media playbook is to portray Democrats as out-of-touch snobs who don’t have their fingers on the pulse of the American public like those salt-of-the-Earth blue-collar Republicans Donald Trump and Paul Ryan. In 2009, Obama went to a diner with Joe Biden and ordered a hamburger with… dramatic pause… Dijon mustard!
Sean Hannity quickly pounced on the astonishing snobbery of Obama asking for a fancy, elitist condiment that you can buy for under $3 per jar at your local grocery store.
“Plain old ketchup, well, it didn’t quite cut it for the president,” Hannity groused. “Now take a look at him ordering his burger with a very special condiment… Dijon mustard?… I hope you enjoyed that fancy burger, Mr. President.”
Fellow right-winger blabber Laura Ingraham soon piled on by asking, “What kind of man orders a cheeseburger without ketchup but Dijon mustard?”
The best hot take on Obama’s mustard selection, however, came from conservative columnist and talk radio host Mark Steyn, who bitterly complained that Obama wasn’t being called out in the media of his troubling choice of condiments.
“John Kerry couldn’t get away with that stuff, but he makes it seem like just like a regular thing to do,” Steyn said. “Now there’s — I see that some of the left-wing commentators are saying, ‘Why are people making a fuss about the Dijon mustard?’ but that’s just an example of the way Obama is able to enlighten us.”
2.) Obama tells kids to study hard and stay in school
In the first year of his presidency, Obama decided to give a boilerplate address to school kids, talking to them about the value of hard work and a good education. Schools across the country had the option to show this address to students in their classrooms at the start of the year. Sounds pretty innocuous, right? Not to some Republicans!
“As the father of four children, I am absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama’s socialist ideology,” railed Jim Greer, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.
What kind of socialism did Obama end up telling kids that fateful day in 2009? Among other things he told them that “no matter what you want to do with your life, I guarantee that you’ll need an education to do it,” and “[there’s] no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude.” Why, it’s amazing that the little comrades didn’t turn into dedicated Trotskyites on the spot!
Despite being thoroughly uncontroversial, school districts in Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin decided against showing it on the off-chance that Obama might have slipped in a quote from Mao’s Little Red Book when no one was looking.
3.) Obama put his foot up on a desk
Yes, this photo of Obama talking on the phone while putting his foot on a desk in the Oval Office was enough to get conservatives frothing with anger:
“Obama’s foot on Oval Office desk sends shockwaves around the world,” breathlessly reported The Washington Times.
Of course, the “shockwaves around the world” were mostly felt in the right-wing media echo chamber, where the Drudge Report, Fox News’ Lou Dobbs, Glenn Beck’s The Blaze all informed us that putting his feet on a desk showed that Obama had no respect for the Oval Office and thought of himself more as a king than a president.
As Snopes noted, however, President George W. Bush and President Gerald Ford were also photographed with their feet on desks as well, although there was no conservative outraged about it at the time.
Gee, I wonder why?
4.) Obama invited a lot of black people over for a barbecue instead of creating jobs
In 2011, Obama invited a bunch of people over for a birthday barbecue, including black celebrities such as Jay-Z, Charles Barkley, Chris Rock, Stevie Wonder and Herbie Hancock. Despite the fact that most of these celebrities have nothing to do with hip-hop, Fox News nonetheless told viewers that Obama had held a “hip-hop barbecue” that “didn’t create jobs.” The end of the URL to that story was even more inflammatory: “obama-parties-chris-rock-jay-z-and-whoopi-while-rome-burns.”
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee railed against the hip-hop barbecue on Fox News by noting that Obama celebrated his birthday during a week of “bleak economics news.” He also suggested that some of the guests should have passed around “one of those great big ol’ hats that the hip-hop pals wore, so that way everyone can empty their pockets… so they can give more to our ever responsible federal government.”
You can be sure that if President Trump throws yuge Vegas-style birthday bashes filled with cocaine and strippers that Fox News will be just as outraged… right?
5.) Obama approves of a completely routine military exercise
Yes, we’re talking about Jade Helm, the military exercise that the army says “is routine training to maintain a high level of readiness for Army Special Operations Forces because they must be ready to support potential missions anywhere in the world on a moment’s notice.” The operation took place in the Southwestern United States in order to simulate the kinds of terrains and climates that Social Ops might expect to see overseas.
Nevertheless, conspiracy theorists believed that Jade Helm was a plot to implement martial law on American citizens and pave the way for a United Nations takeover of the United States.
This completely nutty conspiracy theory gained so much traction in Texas that Governor Greg Abbott even “ordered the Texas State Guard to monitor Jade Helm 15 to safeguard Texans’ constitutional rights, private property and civil liberties.” Yes, he really did that.
The training exercise concluded in September last year and, as of this writing, no patriots were rounded up in the middle of the night and thrown into FEMA camps.