UPDATED: 1:00 p.m. ET, Aug. 28, 2021
Originally published: Aug. 29, 2019
In desperate search of a scandal that never existed in the first place, Republicans selectively launched a disingenuous attack on President Barack Obama because he was wearing a — gasp — tan suit on this day in history seven years ago.
The end result was one of the wildest and most reckless media firestorms that ultimately ended up turning into one big nothing burger.
The year was 2014. It was back when we had a president whose biggest controversy turned out to be of the fashion variety and not political.
When Obama wore that tan suit while at a press conference to discuss Ukraine and the Islamic State, right-wing trolls lost their conservative minds! How dare the commander in chief (whose presidency Republicans and racists alike desperately tried in vain to delegitimize) not wear a navy or charcoal gray suit, they wondered aloud while basing Obama’s presidentiality on the color of his clothes.
As soon as Obama took the podium, the conservative Twitterverse had a meltdown over his more summery fashion pick that was shamelessly referred to as “tanghazi,” an unfortunate play on the Libyan city of Benghazi where an American compound was attacked in 2012 by members of Ansar al-Sharia, a militant group of Islamic extremists. During Obama’s speech, there were roughly 6,000 tweets about his choice of suit, and within 24 hours, Twitter exploded with more than 14,000 comments about it, according to Topsy, a social media analytics firm.
New York Rep. Peter King — who once complained about “too many mosques,” said Eric Garner wouldn’t have died if he wasn’t so “obese,” and compared NFL players kneeling to “Nazi salutes” — said at the time on CNN that Obama “looked like he was on his way to a party at the Hamptons.” King also happens to be the same person who defended Donald Trump’s idiotic idea to buy Greenland.
Fox News’ Lou Dobbs called Obama “un-presidential” because of the tan suit, which he even suggested was being used to send hidden messages to America’s enemies. Dobbs, of course, is the same person who insists Trump isn’t racist.
Trevor Noah’s summarized the fake outrage and scandal best. Watch below:
Obama’s reaction to the controversy wasn’t to rant out on Twitter or insult people. In fact, he never responded. And why would he?
“The President stands squarely behind the decision he made yesterday to wear his summer suit at yesterday’s news conference,” then-White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest simply told reporters the next day.
The anniversary of Obama’s tan suit is widely remembered by many people across the political spectrum, thanks in part to President Joe Biden’s reminder earlier this month when he wore the same thing while delivering a speech in the White House.
Astute observers suggested at the time that the Republican-led and media-driven nit-picking criticism of the first Black president for, of all things, his fashion sense instead of policy showed the motivation behind such judgment must be racism.
While the Hill tweeted that Biden was paying “homage” to Obama, there is likely a better chance that the president was actually the trolling Republicans who criticized Obama for wearing his tan suit.
Meanwhile, right-wing partisans haven’t stopped trying to drum up a scandal for Obama, as they attempted to do — and failed — during his birthday party on Martha’s Vineyard earlier this month.
Better luck next time, since we all know there will definitely be a next time.