Carter said the "You lie" interjection by Joe Wilson showed there was "an inherent feeling among many in this country that an African-American should not be president".
The 84-year-old said the case was part of a disturbing trend directed at Obama that has included equating the president to Nazi leaders. "Those kind of things are not just casual outcomes of a sincere debate on whether we should have a national programme on healthcare. It’s deeper than that."
In an interview with NBC News, Carter attributed much of the conservative opposition to Obama to his race. "I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man.
"I live in the south and I’ve seen the south come a long way, and I’ve seen the rest of the country that share the south’s attitude toward minority groups at that time, particularly African-Americans.
"And that racism inclination still exists. And I think it’s bubbled up to the surface because of the belief among many white people, not just in the south but around the country, that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country. It’s an abominable circumstance and it grieves me and concerns me very deeply."