Sunday, March 25, 2012

Republican Racism Example #47: The Surgeon And The Witch Doctor

It quickly became one of the most popular caricatures of President Obama among Tea Partiers during the ferocious debates about health care reform in 2009.

Forwarded on July 29, 2009 in an email sent by Florida neurosurgeon Dr. David McKalip to his fellow Tea Party activists, the photoshopped image depicted Obama as a witch doctor, naked except for a loin cloth, elaborate tribal headdress and body paint.  The president is also shown with a bone through his nose.  The picture is above the phrase “OBAMACARE” with the letter “C” altered to look like the hammer and sickle design on the flag of the Soviet Union. Below that is the phrase, “Coming soon to a clinic near you.”

The image forwarded by Florida neurosurgeon Dr. David McKalip to his Tea Party pals.  This became a favorite picture on Tea Party protest signs in 2009.  (Photo from

In McKalip’s email, above the image, the doctor had typed, “Funny stuff.”  The picture, according to the Talking Points Memo website, was altered from a photograph of a “Papua New Guinea tribesman wearing identical head-dress, feathers, and clothes.”  Soon after McKalip forwarded the image, copies began appearing regularly on the signs of protesting Tea Partiers who objected to Obama health care reform proposals.

McKalip was no mere rank-and-file activist.  He was a member of the American Medical Association’s House of Delegates.  He was also president-elect of the Pinellas County Medical Association. McKalip formed the group “Doctors For Patient Freedom” to stop Obama’s reforms and was active in a defunct anti-tax group called “Cut Taxes Now.”  In a column written for the St. Petersburg Times, McKalip wrote of the proposed health care legislation, “Congress wants to create larger, government-funded programs for health care and more bureaucracy that ration care and impose cookbook medicine.”

Dr. David McKalip compared his racist picture of Obama to the humor on "The Daily Show With John Sttewart."  (Photo  from 

Questioned by TPM Muckraker about the e-mailed picture, McKalip denied that the image was racist.  The witch doctor image illustration, he said, “was expressing concerns that the health-care proposals [made by President Obama] would make the quality of medical care worse in our country.”  McKalip told Talking Points Memo didn’t know who originally created the pciture.  (For more, see  He later said to the Tamp Bay Times that the humor of the image was no different from what is normally seen on The Daily Show With John Stewart.

After a storm of protest, on July 24, 2009 McKalip stepped down from the position of president elect of the country medical group and took a year’s leave of absence from the organization.  He apologized for the email to the organization and to President Obama. "That e-mail depicted such an offense image, and it was completely inappropriate for me to thoughtlessly forward it out," McKalip said in a statement. "A person in my position, who's trying to help patients and trying to do it in organized medicine, needs to think hard about the people he's going to hurt when he sends out images like that. That took a while to sink in." (See  Fortunately, that obliviousness was not universal.

Michael Phillips has authored the following:

White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, Texas, 1841-2001 (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2006)

(with Patrick L. Cox) The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)

“Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2011)

“The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ”  in Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience (New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2011)

“Dallas, 1989-2011,” in Richardson Dilworth, ed. Cities in American Political History (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011)

(With John Anthony Moretta, Keith J. Volonto, Austin Allen, Doug Cantrell and Norwood Andrews), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips. eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume I.   (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Keith J. Volanto), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips, eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume II. (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Carl J. Luna), Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power from Roosevelt to Obama  (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2013). 

“Texan by Color: The Racialization of the Lone Star State,” in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison, eds., The Radical Origins of the Texas Right (College Station: University of Texas Press, 2013).

He is currently collaborating, with longtime journalist Betsy Friauf, on a history of African American culture, politics and black intellectuals in the Lone Star State called God Carved in Night: Black Intellectuals in Texas and the World They Made.

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