Ralph Nader Ends Campaign in Disgrace, Calling Obama an Uncle Tom


Ralph Nader, who helped give us George Bush in 2000, has ended his latest unsuccessful campaign in disgrace, referring to Barack Obama as an Uncle Tom. Even Fox News is outraged by his attack on Obama as seen in the video above. Hopefully this is the last we hear of Nader.

Update: There has been considerable reaction to Nader’s comment now that the video has gone viral. Check out some of the blogs with track backs here in the comments. Joe Gandelman of The Moderate Voice has provided some of the links below, preceded by his own view:

Yes, Ralph Nader ran again and place bets now that he’ll run in 2012 or beyond, even if he has to be wheeled from appearance to appearance. This year he received a sliver of the kind of support he got at the ballot box, which in itself would have been enough to decrease his shrinking legacy. But on election night 2008 he seemed determined to reduce his legacy even more.

On election night — as even GOP strategist Karl Rove expressed awe at the historical moment and Obama’s achievement — Nader framed Obama’s choice in a way that raised eyebrows. Watch the video below showing Ralph Nader with Fox News’ Shepard Smith, one of the network’s most unpredictable and watchable anchors. Watch Smith frame Nader’s role in 2000 and this year in a way that many voters now feel — and watch his response to Nader’s comment about Obama.

PERSONAL NOTE: Watching Ralph Nader now is very painful for many of us who grew up in the 1960s. I can remember driving from my parent’s house in Woodbridge, CT back to Colgate University in Hamilton, New York in a brutal snowstorm, listening to a newscast detail the latest battle of a young crusading Connecticut lawyer named Ralph Nader. Many baby boomers wanted to be just like him. When Nader ran for President in 2000 — like him or not — it was all about content. Since then, Nader seems to be all about someone who craves attention.

His legacy was already diminished by election day. His comments here reduce it even more. And, yet, he doesn’t seem to realize the impact of the way he framed his question, and the inappropriateness of his language.

From Tim Goodman at The San Francisco Chronicle:

As if Ralph Nader wasn’t a big enough tool already, he went on Fox News on election night – the very night Barack Obama broke the racial barrier on the presidency – and uttered the words “Uncle Tom.” Not only that, after being called out on the words (which he initially said in a radio interview) by Fox News anchor Shepard Smith – and given a point-blank chance to apologize and take them back, Nader said he wouldn’t. It’s a stunning bit of television and a lot of people missed it. (No doubt a good portion of the Bay Area, not exactly a bastion of Fox News watchers, did). Up until he spewed out the words, the biggest shocker in this scenario was A) That anybody still cared enough to talk to a washed-up political hack like Nader and B) That Nader could actually hear Smith call him on the offensive language. Nader rarely stops his mouth moving – he’s always so caught up in his monotonous blather and meritless belief that he’s making points people want to listen to.

Give Shep Smith a lot of credit here. “Really? Ralph Nader – what was that?” And then he just fried Nader. (I love the look on his face when Nader calls him a bully – it’s that same look people should be giving Nader right about now for completely not getting it.)

So, let’s go to the big board here for the tally: Nader helps the Democrats lose the election in 2000 and then slanders the Democratic winner in 2008? Well played, Ralph. At least this moment brings you (temporarily) back out of obscurity and irrelevance.

Tim Molloy at TV Guide writes:

Dubious congratulations are in order: Ralph Nader became the first public figure to make an inflammatory public remark about our first African-American president, telling a Fox News affiliate that Barack Obama has to choose between being “Uncle Sam for the people of this country, or Uncle Tom for the giant corporations.”

Grilled by Fox’s Shepard Smith early Wednesday morning, after the election was decided, Nader declined to back down from the remark, which he made in an earlier interview on Election Day.

“Really,” Smith said after playing a clip of Nader’s remarks. “Ralph Nader, what was that?”

Nader continued to press his point – Obama is too beholden to corporate interests – without acknowledging that many find the term Uncle Tom offensive. (Taken from Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the 1852 anti-slavery novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe, the term is used to accuse a black person of behaving subserviently.)

Smith soon cut Nader off: “You had a number of supporters out there, you were running a percentage, this year you were reduced to irrelevant and I just wonder if that’s what you want your legacy to be: the man who on the night that the first African-American president in the history of this nation was elected, you ask if he’s going to be Uncle Sam or Uncle Tom. Stunning.”

Nader’s answer: “Yeah, of course, he’s turned his back on a 100 million poor people in this country, African-Americans and Latinos and poor whites. And we’re gonna hold him to a higher standard.”

Later in the interview, Nader told Smith: “Look, I don’t like bullies like you. I can’t see you. You can pull the plug on me, I’m looking in a dark camera.”

Nader later used the word “toady” the same way he had previously used the phrase “Uncle Tom,” but said he had no regrets about the latter phrase.

Nader, a consumer advocate, has run in every election since 1996 but had a significant impact only in the 2000 race, in which many Democrats blame him for siphoning off enough votes from Al Gore in Florida to allow George Bush to win the election.

David Weigel of Reason wrote:

It’s going to take a while for Americans and pundits (often the same thing!) to adjust to a black president. There are cliches and turns of phrase and narratives that simply won’t sound right if applied to a black man. Ralph Nader’s getting a head start on this.

His choice, basically, is whether he’s going to be Uncle Sam for the people of this country, or Uncle Tom for the giant corporations.

During the campaign, Nader suggested that Obama was “acting white” by not barnstorming the country and talking about poverty or something. But the irony is that Nader’s one of the sorriest practitioners of ethnic politics out there. “Sorry” in the sense that it never works. He’s run for president four times and each time chosen a hilariously unqualified ethnic minority running mate: Winona LaDuke (American Indian), LaDuke again, Peter Camejo (Hispanic) and Matt Gonzalez (Hispanic).

Nader’s long nightmare is over, in a sense, because I don’t think liberals can stay mad at him when they’ve won the presidency in a rout and he couldn’t stop them. But his race obsession looks even worse compared to Bob Barr. “It just illustrates the tremendous demographic changes, generational changes in this country,” Barr told me last night, discussing Obama’s win. “This really is a very different country, in some ways much better country, than it was several years ago.”

Wonkette writes:

Ugh. NADER. He’s been such a dick the last few days. His communications guy has been sending out all of these sarcastic (”pathetic”) e-mails; for example, there was one about how Nader won a mock election in some hippie high school and then decided that they were all more ethical than Obama. And then there was that snippy soundbite press conference. And the shit-flavored hummus. And now this: calling Obama an “Uncle Tom” after his victory and thereby forcing us to side with SHEP F*#$@$ SMITH in the above clip.

It’s not the first time Nader’s played this cheap identity shit, either. He really does have some psychological attention-craving disorder, the end. The man has saved countless lives over the decades by advocating for safer automobiles, cleaner air, water, and food, worker safety regulations, and most importantly the election of George W. Bush. Now he’s just some crazy racist losing an argument to a relatively mild-mannered Fox News anchor.

Andrew Sullivan wrote:

Can you believe that Ralph Nader used the phrase “Uncle Tom” to describe Obama last night? Shep Smith couldn’t. And he showed again he’s the only reason to still watch and respect Fox News.

Ta-Nehisi Coates writes:

Owned–By Shep Smith, no less: This is, like, a mixture of tragedy and humor. I laughed, and then I was embarrassed for Nader. Tragicomic, I guess. Sorry, I’m not making thoughts…so. .good. Anyway, what’s truly tragicomic is that I can’t not blog. I love the O.C. shout-out at the end… Time’s Up indeed.

Steve Benen of Washington Monthly’s Political Animal blog sums it up succinctly (kindly linking back here):

Ralph Nader is a disgrace.


  1. 1
    battlebob says:

    Our area (Caledonia including the Township) went solidly for McCain.  We are in District 3.
    As we are in the west michigan Bible belt, and Repubs often run unopposed, this isn’t too bad.

    PRCT 1
    PRCT 2
    PRCT 3
    PRCT 4




  2. 2
    battlebob says:

    didn’t come out very good…
    Dist  McCain Obama
    1         714       314
    2         881       464
    3        1058      554
    4        925        452
    5        914        475
    total  4492      2259

  3. 3
    battlebob says:

    proposal      Yes       no
    Med marj    3608     3156
    stem cell    2808     3948

    For all four districts, we averaged over 80% turn-out
    District 3 (ours) had 81.67%

  4. 4
    battlebob says:

    I have one queston about the marijane bill…
    There is no provision of supply if the patient can’t grow it.
    I hereby volunter my meager acreage as a “grass” supplier for medical use only.  Sampling – and some time it may need a lot of sampling – is necessary for quality control purposes.

  5. 5
    Ron Chusid says:


    That is a generous offer. Should I have any patients who qualify for use of medical marijuana but need land to grow medical marijuana I will have them get in touch with you.

    Of course from what I recall from living in Ann Arbor, space to grow never seemed to be a major issue.

  6. 6
    battlebob says:

    Instead of putting in a row of peas and carrots in our garden, maybe a different cash crop is in order.

  7. 7
    fred says:

    This man is a disgrace.  There’s a special place in hell for people like Nader/

  8. 8
    Cym says:

    Nader is now as obsolete as the Ford Pinto

  9. 9
    TonyG says:

    I’m no fan of Nader’s and I certainly don’t  support his comments, but let’s have just a little respect for the truth.  He didn’t “call Obama an Uncle Tom.”  He said Obama could choose between being an Uncle Tom or an Uncle Sam.  There’s a difference.   If you want to ignore that difference just to score polemical points, go ahead.  But to distort what he said does a service to no one.   Why not simply report what he said and, if you want, condemn it, without first distorting it?   The fact that you are joining a Fox New correspondent in his faux outrage should have given you pause.   

  10. 10
    scott says:

    For those of you who would inevitably be overly critical of this statement, I would suggest first understanding just what an ‘uncle tom’ is. 

    Uncle Tom- a pejorative commonly used to describe black people whose political views or allegiances are considered by their critics as detrimental to blacks as a group.

    So, when Ralph Nader posed this rhetorical question and wondered whether or not Barak Obama would turn out to be an Uncle Tom of a president, he wondered whether Barak Obama would be using his position as president to help his white corporate campaign backers, or if he would be true to his early populist campaign rhetoric of helping the poor.  And as I’m sure everyone knows black people make up a disproportionately large part of the poor population in this country. 

    Given Obama’s movement toward the political center of late -voting for telecom immunity after saying he wouldn’t, coming out in support of the bank bailout, not supporting single payer national healthcare, etc- I know I’ve been wondering the same damn thing.  This may have been a historical election for our nation and especially its african american citizens, but so far president obama has come through the same process by the same means that produced corporate stooge president after corporate stooge president. 

    As has always been the case, we the people need to get out in the streets and demand the types of change that we want, because otherwise the leverage corporate america can exert on president Obama and our congress will be far too great for our hope to endure.  All the great movements of our country, including civil rights, women’s suffrage and the labor movements were due to an overwhelming mandate by the people and eventual capitulation to the people’s will by the government.  I beg you all to keep your enthusiasm in Obama and this election alive, and focus this energy on the many many individual issues that will need to be fought for by a well informed and unified america.

  11. 11
    scott says:

    and for those of you who need to a history lesson, Ralph Nader has fought for the poor, and the disenfranchised citizens of this country tirelessly for almost half a century now.  The man never gives up fighting our corporate lacky government for those silenced and forgotten.  So have a little fucking respect.

  12. 12
    Ron Chusid says:

    There have been numerous links to this post from liberal blogs which shared my disgust for Nader’s comment. Then there were a few apologists for Nader.

    TonyG, it is rather lame to accuse me of lacking respect for the truth when I posted the video of Nader’s full statement. It is even lamer when you summarize it in a dishonest manner, leaving out important facts such as that Nader was given the opportunity to retract the use of “Uncle Tom” and declined to do so.

    It is also rather weak to claim that just because it comes from Fox that criticism is not warranted. Nader’s comments are inexcusable regardless of who covered them. Even Fox can be correct in their criticism when Nader makes a repulsive statement of this nature. If you want a blog which takes a knee jerk position that anything said by someone on the left is correct, and anything said by anyone on the right (including Fox) is wrong, you can move along. That’s not what I do here.

    Scott, if Nader wanted to criticize Obama over specific issues such as his vote on the immunity bill that would be fine. However he did not do so. Instead he went with the Uncle Tom attack. Whatever he might have done in the past does not excuse this so, no, I have no respect for Ralph Nader.

  13. 13
    D. F. Robinson says:

    My father, a proud African American explained to me in 1963 when I was just 8 years old the value of the research done by Ralph Nader on the Chevy Corvair and rear mounted engines.  My father was a draftsman for the Dept. of Highways and Traffic and read a book a week.  He inspired me to do the same, to pay attention to information and seek the truth.  He reaspected Ralph Nader and used Consumer Reports like a bible.  When Ralph Nader began to attack Barak Obama earlier in the year I was particularly hurt by the words.  I respected Nader all of these years based on his merit, like my father did, on his achievements not his race.  It seems that (if you have them) the internal demons surface no matter what you accomplishments are. I had reason to respect him as a kid…I loved the corvair…it was the dream car I wanted to have….truth from Nader’s investigation changed my mind not rumors. Now Nader joins, Jesse Jackson, Bob Johnson of BET , Rush Limbaugh and others that attack our new president Barak Obama. It is sad when self loathing, lonliness and jealousy take the place of balanced thought.  Since they have no obvious reason for disliking Obama we have to look for the Inner demon in them that causes the behavior. R. Nader is old and mad.  Barak is young and assured. R. Limbaugh is Obese and misspeaks, Obama is trim, athletic and a scholar. J. Jackson Old sytle Negro, lives in the past, Barak, Leads with his mind and heart, remembers and respect the past but not condemned to repeat it. B. Johnson accomplished NOT confident, jealous ,Barak Obama accomplished, confident, learned, connceted, attractive and acieved the gargantuan task of impressing and embracing white collaborators and voters without kissing their kneecaps.

    Let’s have a little respect for our President Elect and send these old sad ones to the AARP help site for projects they can do to keep busy at home.

    D.F. Robinson
    SF Bay Area

  14. 14
    E W P says:

    Nader has been a has-been for years, and his weakening position seems to drive him to run vanity campaigns every 4 years -giving him a chance to spout his self-serving , pointless dribble.  Instead of foolish presidential runs, he
    could have spent that time in his various projects, doing some actual good.  On his Obama comments, he was a mean-spirited, old-fashioned 60.s liberal politician–     GO AWAY-MR. NADER.  You helped G, W. Bush into national power-THAT’S ENOUGH.  No reasonable person in today’s world takes anything you say seriously.

  15. 15
    Angela Flynn says:

    I find the comment to be completely racist and unacceptable.  Nader would not have referred to a white person as an Uncle Tom.  

  16. 16
    r€nato says:

    I hope those of you out there who voted Nader in 2000 – ESPECIALLY if you voted in Florida – are too embarrassed and ashamed by your choice to ever admit to having done so, for the rest of your life.

    It’s been theorized that Nader’s presidential campaigns were nothing more than petty revenge attempts against the Democratic party.

    This sad appearance by Nader only confirms this theory. He seldom if ever directs his ire at the true corporate villains, the GOP.

    Did Nader not notice the phenomenal amount of money Obama raised from individual donors? If there’s EVER been a major-party candidate less beholden to corporate America for his finances, it’s Obama.

  17. 17
    Josh says:

    Ralph Nader did not ‘steal’ the 2000 election.
    1) Gore won the election. Ralph Nader wasn’t on SCOTUS and didn’t take part in the recount.
    2) Ralph Nader is not a Democrat, and has no allegiance to them. He was a candidate. People chose to vote for him because they preferred his policies over Gore’s.
    3) He screwed up bigtime with that comment. Loads of people have screwed up bigtime. But there comes a time to get over it.

  18. 18
    Ron Chusid says:

    Nader screwed up big time here, but the real problem is that Nader’s political career has been a steady stream of screw ups. Comes a time to get over it? This was posted at the time of his dumb comment.

    Nobody is saying that Nader stole the 2000 election or that he doesn’t have the right to run against Democrats, but those of us who oppose him also have the right to speak out against candidates such as Nader who we oppose, and to point out their screw ups when they occur.

    Nader’s strategy has often come down to attacking liberal Democrats in the hopes he can peal away a handful of votes for himself. The real question is not whether people preferred his polices over Gore’s but whether they preferred Bush’s over Gore’s.

  19. 19
    Betty says:

    I don’t think what he’s saying is so inflammatory. Obama does have a choice…make real change, be the Uncle Sam for the people of this country, or be an Uncle Tom to corporate power just like the last bunch of presidents have been.

  20. 20
    Jay says:

    So, I wonder how all the previous posters are feeling today? Did your Obama fight for the poor in the US? Did the people of the US get universal health care? Or did Obama cave in? The decision is your, two years later… what is the verdict?

  21. 21
    Ron Chusid says:

    Yes, Obama fought to help the poor, along with the middle class. Yes, Obama achieved far more on health care than numerous other previous presidents have. No, Obama did not cave in.

  22. 22
    Ron Chusid says:

    Oh, and yes, I still think Nader’s an ass who has helped the goals of the right wing while on his ego trip.

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