CHICAGO (AP) Barack Obama dismissed Ralph Nader's claim that the Democratic candidate is trying to "talk white" and is gaining white support by appealing to "white guilt."
Obama told reporters on Wednesday that Nader, who has run for president several times, including 2000 and 2004, was trying to get attention with "an inflammatory statement."
In a story published Wednesday, the Denver-based Rocky Mountain News reported that Nader said he was not impressed with Obama and that the senator was playing down poverty issues. The interview took place Monday in Washington, the News reported.
"There's only one thing different about Barack Obama when it comes to being a Democratic presidential candidate. He's half African-American," Nader said. "Whether that will make any difference, I don't know. I haven't heard him have a strong crackdown on economic exploitation in the ghettos. Payday loans, predatory lending, asbestos, lead. What's keeping him from doing that? Is it because he wants to talk white? He doesn't want to appear like Jesse Jackson?"
When asked if Obama does try to "talk white," Nader replied, "Of course." He also said Obama doesn't want to appear to be "another politically threatening African-American politician."
"He wants to appeal to white guilt," Nader said. "You appeal to white guilt not by coming on as black is beautiful, black is powerful. Basically he's coming on as someone who is not going to threaten the white power structure, whether it's corporate or whether it's simply oligarchic. And they love it. Whites just eat it up."
Obama said Nader hadn't been paying attention because he has discussed predatory lending, housing foreclosures and similar economic issues throughout his campaign.
"I think it's a shame because if you look at his legacy in terms of consumer protections, it's an extraordinary one. But at this point, he's somebody who's trying to get attention and whose campaign hasn't gotten any traction," Obama said.
Nader, 74, is a consumer advocate and political activist.