The news on Friday morning that David Koch, one half of a politically powerful billionaire brother duo, had died, the response was initially tempered as it became the top trending topic on Twitter. But buried within some — but not most — of those reports was how much Koch and his brother, Charles, deeply resented the first African American president, denied the existence of climate change and knowingly worked to expand the widening wealth gap that has disproportionately affected Black people.
More familiarly known as the Koch Brothers, the political donors used massive contributions to help fund elections and campaigns that arguably helped foster the anti-Barack Obama sentiment that helped fuel America to elect Donald Trump.
David Koch, who died at the age of 79, had some very strong words and actions against a president who was successfully guiding the country through a crippling recession. He and his brother became renowned not just for “giving money to organizations fighting legislation related to climate change” but also for funding “opposition campaigns against so many Obama Administration policies—from health-care reform to the economic-stimulus program—that, in political circles, their ideological network is known as the Kochtopus,” the New Yorker wrote in 2010 while citing a report about the top ten air polluters in the United States.
Twitter users took note of all of the above and then some after news of David’s death broke Friday morning.
In 2011, David called Obama “the most radical president we’ve ever had as a nation” who had “done more damage to the free enterprise system and long-term prosperity than any president we’ve ever had” before going on to talk recklessly about the relationship Obama had with his dad.
“His father was a hard core economic socialist in Kenya,” David told the Weekly Standard in 2011 using language that reinforced racist birtherism claims about the president. “Obama didn’t really interact with his father face-to-face very much, but was apparently from what I read a great admirer of his father’s points of view. So he had sort of antibusiness, anti-free enterprise influences affecting him almost all his life. It just shows you what a person with a silver tongue can achieve.”
That same year, during an interview with New York magazine, David called Obama “a hardcore socialist” who is “scary to me.” David also tried to reduce Obama’s role in capturing Osama bin Laden despite photos showing the president calling the shots in the Situation Room. He said “all that Obama did was say ‘yea’ or ‘nay,’ we’re going to take him out or not. I don’t think he contributed much at all.”
All of that likely prompted the Koch brothers to pledge $100 million dollars to beat Obama in the 2012 election which, of course, was won handily by the incumbent. That was followed by the brothers’ spokesperson issuing a statement replete with racially coded language about Obama “trying to intimidate into silence those who may disagree with them.”
Despite all of that, Obama, every the classy president, in 2015 still honored the Koch brothers for their efforts on criminal justice reform that was widely criticized as a disingenuous effort on civil rights.
Obama, a leading voice on climate change, has taken issue with the brothers’ steady denial of global warming and its very real consequences. “[Y]ou start seeing massive lobbying efforts backed by fossil fuel interests, or conservative think tanks, or the Koch brothers pushing for new laws to roll back renewable energy standards or prevent new clean energy businesses from succeeding — that’s a problem,” Obama said of Charles and David in 2015.