WASHINGTON - The White House said yesterday that President Obama did not believe he was being criticized because of his race.
Spokesman Robert Gibbs said that Obama did not think that criticism of his policies was "based on the color of his skin."
Gibbs said, rather, that some people had disagreements with some of Obama's decisions.
Gibbs was asked about the topic after comments Tuesday by former President Jimmy Carter.
Carter said that an outburst by Rep. Joe Wilson (R., S.C.) during Obama's speech to Congress last week was "based on racism." Carter also said: "There is an inherent feeling among many in this country that an African American should not be president."
Responding to an audience question at a town hall at his presidential center in Atlanta, Carter said Tuesday that Wilson's outburst was also rooted in fears of a black president.
Wilson's son disputed Carter's assertions.
"There is not a racist bone in my dad's body," said Alan Wilson, an Iraq war veteran who is running for state attorney general in South Carolina. "He doesn't even laugh at distasteful jokes. I won't comment on former President Carter, because I don't know President Carter. But I know my dad, and it's just not in him."
"It's unfortunate people make that jump. People can disagree - and appropriately disagree - on issues of substance, but when they make the jump to race, it's absolutely ludicrous."
Carter, a Democrat, said that Joe Wilson's outburst was part of a disturbing trend directed at the president that has included demonstrators equating Obama to Nazi leaders.
"Those kind of things are not just casual outcomes of a sincere debate on whether we should have a national program on health care," Carter said. "It's deeper than that."
Michael Steele, the Republican National Committee chairman, responded to Carter's comments yesterday on CNN's The Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer.
"I think the president's interpretation of what racism is is not a reflection of what this is about," Steele said. "And the reality of it is, this is about policy - differences in how we approach solving some of these issues that we're confronting on health care and the economy."