The racial slurs levelled against President Obama this week by a member of Fox News’ ‘Medical A Team’ (whatever that means?!) Dr Keith Ablow have made headlines around the world – and for good reason. Ablow has accused Obama of seeking to infect Americans with Ebola because “his affiliations are with Africa.” While reductionist statements are common among US conservatives, his took offensiveness to an entirely new level.
Ablow’s conspiracy theory may be summarised as follows: Obama is not acting in the best interests of Americans because he is African and therefore ideologically opposed to sealing off US borders with Ebola-infected countries.
His premise begins with the president’s name itself.
Dr Ablow said: “This guy [President Barack Obama]… has names very similar to two of our arch-enemies, Osama, well, Obama. And Hussein. Hussein.”
While speaking with Fox News Radio, Ablow accused the president of believing – “if only unconsciously” – that the US has inflicted a “plague of colonialism” on the world and that travel restrictions on African countries would thus be unfair.
Whilst Ablow’s arguments are too ridiculous to dismantle piece-by-piece, a quick glance over his Wikipedia page reveals that the psychiatrist-cum-media-personality is no stranger to controversy – and may in fact court it, as I will endeavour to illustrate below.
Yet before documenting Ablow’s most notorious gaffes in recent years, may I not-so-respectfully point out that his own name is rather unfortunate in the context of his profession as a psychiatrist (he wanted to get personal, right?). And come to think of it, does “Ablow” not sound a little like “Ebola”? Hmmm… must be sinister…
According to Wikipedia, “Ablow has made a number of controversial statements, including psychological assessments of various celebrities he has never examined that have drawn criticism from other practitioners in his field, as well as from various organisations and groups which were offended by his comments.”
Remark 1 –
On August 12, 2014, Dr Ablow said that First Lady Michelle Obama “needs to drop a few [pounds].”
He apparently continued on this track whilst appearing on a television show aired later that month: he told female panelists that they too needed to lose weight.
Remark 2 –
During the 2012 Republican primary elections, Ablow penned a column arguing that Newt Gingrich’s three marriages made him more qualified to be president.
He wrote: “When three women want to sign on for life with a man who is now running for president, I worry more about whether we’ll be clamoring for a third Gingrich term, not whether we’ll want to let him go after one.”
Rod Dreher of The American Conservative was one of many who publicly voiced criticism over Dr Ablow’s remarks.
“At some point, you have to wonder when shamelessness crosses the line from character defect to psychopathology. If only Dr. Leo Spaceman were a Republican, he could have a lucrative career on Fox,” he said.
Remark 3 –
In April 2011, Ablow wrote a health column for FoxNews.com which criticised designer Jenna Lyons for publishing an advertisement that showed her painting her young son’s toenails a shade of hot pink.
Ablow asserted that gender distinctions are “part of the magnificent synergy that creates and sustains the human race”.
Despite the ensuing controversy this caused, Ablow held firm (in contrast to the subsequent apologies he proffered following the outcry over remarks 1 and 2). He re-posted the column on his Facebook page as proof of his conviction.
Remark 4 –
Ablow is keen on volunteering diagnoses for public figures, despite the fact that he has never personally treated them. One of the most notable concerned Vice President Joe Biden: following Biden’s speech in the 2012 VP Performance, Ablow wrote a column for FoxNews.com that suggested he suffered from dementia.
Whilst Ablow is indeed a qualified psychiatrist, the bulk of his professional time is spent in media. In addition to writing health columns for FoxNews.com, Ablow has published 15 books and made countless TV appearances – including the Oprah Winfrey Show. He is also a radio broadcast regular and his articles have appeared in a variety of print publications.
Ablow hosted his own TV show for a little over year, before it was axed in 2007 due to ratings that averaged out at one percent of America’s TV audience. On October 17, 2006 “The Dr Keith Ablow Show” secured an exclusive interview with John Mark Karr, who falsely confessed to murdering the child beauty pageant star, Jon-Benet Ramsey. Ablow surreptitiously videotaped his source and afterwards stated that John Mark Karr was a “textbook case of pedophilia” and would pose a threat to society after being released from prison.
Ablow severed his ties with the American Psychiatric Association in 2012, when he announced in a FoxNews.com column that he had “resigned in protest” – but neglected to mention the reasons for doing so. The column was titled, “Be wary of the American Psychiatric Association” and you can read it here.
Ever the optimist, in January 2013 Ablow expressed an ambition to take part in politics. Despite a complete lack of experience, Ablow suggested he contest the seat left vacant by John Kerry as a Republican candidate. He backed down two months later to make way for other Republican hopefuls.
No doubt President Obama isn’t losing sleep over Ablow’s latest remark – yet the fact that Fox News and others continue to give Dr Ablow air-time is both worrying and incomprehensible to many. Surely there’s a better candidate out there?