July 10th, 2008
10:20 AM ET
6 years ago

Roberts: What was Jesse Jackson thinking?

CNN

Watch Roberts' interview with Jesse Jackson.

(CNN) – Rev. Jesse Jackson has been known to utter some intemperate language in the past. Remember his famous 1984 description of New York City as “Hymietown”? It was deeply offensive to many people and Jackson was eventually forced to publicly apologize, though it took a month. It took far less time for Jackson to apologize for wanting to cut off a certain sensitive part of Barack Obama’s anatomy.

His comments were stunning to say the least and prompted many people to wonder – despite his proclaimed support for Obama – what he really thinks about the Senator, and Jackson moved quickly to apologize. "For any harm or hurt that this hot mic private conversation may have caused, I apologize," he said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon. "My support for Senator Obama's campaign is wide, deep and unequivocal..."

Some believe Jackson, who ran for president in 1984 and 1988, is deeply envious of Obama for succeeding where he failed. I asked Jackson about that on today’s American Morning program. “That’s ridiculous,” Jackson assured me. “He’s running the last lap of a 54-year marathon. He is running that race. I am part of that race.” He added that whether it is “in 1963 Dr. King speaking about the dream or Barack in Denver, it’s a moment I really cherish...”

If Jackson so cherishes the moment, how is it that he wants to leave the Senator with – as Austin Powers might say – “a twig and no berries”? In his ‘open-mike’ moment, Jackson said he thought Obama was “talking down” to African Americans with his faith-based initiatives. This morning, when I confronted him directly, he refused to repeat that charge — in fact, he denied it completely. He also offered a convoluted explanation of why he thought faith-based programs can’t solve all the problems of the inner city.

Why did a media-savvy pro like Jackson describe his remarks as part of a “private conversation”? What was it about the microphone on his lapel, the camera and the appearance on nationwide television that led him to believe anything he would say at that moment was private? In his defense, there are still plenty of media veterans who every year get caught uttering one of the seven words you can’t say on television - but he ought to know that you can’t say what he did in a television studio without it completely blowing up in his face.

The Obama campaign is rightfully incensed over what Jackson said, though the Senator has accepted his apology. So is Jackson’s own family - after all, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. is co-chairman of Obama’s campaign. "I thoroughly reject and repudiate his ugly rhetoric,” said Congressman Jackson in a statement released Wednesday. “He should keep hope alive and any personal attacks and insults to himself."

So – just how much trouble is Jesse Sr. in with his family?

“He is my congressman and I am his father,” the elder Jackson told me this morning. “And ultimately, we get along.”


Filed under: John Roberts
soundoff (74 Responses)
  1. African American Woman

    Personnally I think Fox News tricked Jesse into thinking his mic was off. Fox is known for hating Obama. I believe because of comments Jesse has made earlier, they tricked him. If he didn't saying something juicy–the "hot mic" issue would have just died a natural death.

    Jesse, I still respect you and also still supports Obama. Haters, news organizations etc... stop it– wouldn't work, WE AFRICAN AMERICANS RESPECTS JESSE AND SUPPORTS OBAMA.

    July 10, 2008 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  2. jean HUISSEIN

    WE DON'T CARE WAS THAT MR. JACKSON WAS THINKING. I HAVE TO REMIND HIM THAT BARACK OBAMA IS RUNNING FOR ALL AMERICANS NOT ONLY AFRICAN AMERICAN.

    THIS IS NOT A CIVIL RIGHT ELECTION.

    YES WE CAN

    BARACK HUISSEIN OBAMA 08 AND 12

    July 10, 2008 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  3. Jeff

    That's just it, does Jessie ever really think? What would he do if he had to get a real job? Would anyone hire him? Obviously not. It's too bad the press keeps giving the Jackson's and the Sharpton's of the world coverage. If they didn't get coverage, they would just go away. I think Jessie's new motto should be "Keep racism alive!"

    July 10, 2008 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  4. MoonCaptain

    Please disregard this blog: Roberts: What was Jesse Jackson thinking?
    This is a gossip column. Better to put your attention on the real news which is far away from CNN.

    July 10, 2008 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  5. mzbond

    Actually, I think it was said in jest. This sort of comment not unusual went someone is frustrated with an issue with a friend. It is 99 1/2 % of the time said in Jest.

    July 10, 2008 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  6. KenB, MI

    I'm not surprised...sure I agree we're supposed to get over it and my brief moment over a decade ago is water under the bridge...but, again...I'm not surprised. We live the problems and fight the struggle...its easier when you were keeping that dark side close to you and your cronies...keep hope alive.

    July 10, 2008 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  7. Every white man alive

    What would happen if a white man had said this? Would he not be branded a racist and be forced to lose his job? If Imus had said this what would have happened?
    Jesse Jackson is a racist!

    July 10, 2008 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  8. somename

    Finally he has show who he is.

    July 10, 2008 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  9. Noah

    Jackson needs attention so he opened his mouth again. This is very typical of him, every few years he makes some kind of statement to get a minute of media attention and nobody cares.

    Personally I think he IS jealous because his presidential bids failed and Obama’s has been so successful. If he truly supports Obama he would never have even said those words whether he knew the mic was on or not.

    July 10, 2008 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  10. Michelle

    Hell to pay .. well he works for himself .. who is gonna fire him ? DOH

    July 10, 2008 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  11. Mike

    Jesse Jackson has grown more rediculous in his waning years. Who is he to talk for anyone. His background is dubious at best and he grows more offensive- I am sure Dr King must be rolling in his grave- what a shame

    July 10, 2008 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  12. African American Woman?

    "Personnally I think Fox News tricked Jesse into thinking his mic was off. Fox is known for hating Obama. I believe because of comments Jesse has made earlier, they tricked him. If he didn't saying something juicy–the "hot mic" issue would have just died a natural death.

    Jesse, I still respect you and also still supports Obama. Haters, news organizations etc… stop it– wouldn't work, WE AFRICAN AMERICANS RESPECTS JESSE AND SUPPORTS OBAMA."
    --------------------------

    Keep drinking the Kool-Aid.

    July 10, 2008 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  13. jesus

    Jacksons comments were just a small sign of how alot of Obama's peers maybe feeling. One's own people usually holds more ill will then the that of another group of people expected to oppose his success. In short, Jesse is jealous

    July 10, 2008 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  14. LNJ , Houston

    Jesse, OH Jesse, you're like a professional athlete in the twi-light of your career, The applausee stopped a long time ago. You deserved every ovation. The American dream lives on. Please recognize when your time has past, it's not that you have been de-valued. It's just that times and circumstances have evolved, and you didn't.

    July 10, 2008 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  15. Beer for my Horses

    Jesse said exactly what he was thinking. Hard to spin out of this one. He's getting off to easy.

    July 10, 2008 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  16. Brian

    Any notice how Jesse Jackson resembles the Rancor from the 'Return of the Jedi'? You know the creature that Luke has to face when Jabba sends him through the trap door into the Rancor's lair.

    July 10, 2008 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  17. robb

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion, no matter how ridiculous Desiree. In this case, it perhaps revealed more about the good reverend that we had previously known (but suspected anyway). Case closed.

    Had a non-black person said the same thing, would Al Sharpton not have been all over the perpetrator like a cheap suit?

    July 10, 2008 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  18. Robert

    The real issue for Jackson is that if Obama were to be elected president, his self professed role as THE black leader would become secondary.
    Based on other comments, I am curious as to whether Jackson has taken care of his out-of-wedlock child? I would hope so.

    July 10, 2008 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  19. Tom

    Point #1 ->An ordained minister who wants to "chop his nutz off"? Maybe he should be un-ordained!!!! Seems rather un-minister-like to want to hurt somebody like that. Point#2->Is Jesse Jackson Sr even relevant anymore?

    July 10, 2008 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  20. Richard Bird

    The issue of race in America has moved beyond Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton – in the forms of Barack Obama, Condoleeza Rice, Colin Powell, Thurgood Marshall, and so many more African- Americans who have furthered the discourse on matters of race so far beyond the divisive rhetoric of Jackson and Sharpton. If the discussion moves towards participation and away from division – who stands to lose income, entitlement and status? hmmmmm, Jesse and Al....no more spotlight for Jesse and those that espouse the same ? that's an improvement in my book....

    And thrown under the bus? Wrong is wrong folks – you don't hold up someone who is wrong; period. Not even your own grandmother or father.

    July 10, 2008 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  21. Very very tired

    While I understand why the media is going whole-hog over this, I getting very, very tired of this endless, mindless nit-picking over things that don't matter. And getting very, very tired of the constant dissection of minutae of Obama while letting McCain getting away with his "exporting of cigarettes to Iran comment as a way of killing them" as a cute episode of his wife trying to correct him.

    What I'd really like to see is the media doing their job! How about dissecting the candidates stands on issues, examining whether their plans will work so that the American people can make an educated decision about their country and their future. And I'm not talking about the "talking heads" spouting their spin. I'm talking about indepth, difficult reporting that takes time, research and creativity.

    July 10, 2008 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  22. Tom Stallings

    This is the kind of self destruction that keeps blacks from ever being able to get and hold onto anything. Blacks would fare far better if they would stop letting racists attention hungry preachers speak for them. No one can take them seriously.

    It seems every black civil leader keeps trying to be the next MLK Jr and the fact of the matter is there will only be one and the rest of you should go find real jobs or else do what a minister is supposed to be up to according to your own bible- preaching the message of salvation through Christ-period. No sitcoms-No politics-No corporate consulting.

    July 10, 2008 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  23. Keith

    Why do you allow Jackson to get away with another one of his wordy, lame explanations? Hold him to the fire. He said what he said, because he meant it. He says it was just trash talk. Remeind him he is a leader in his community, and the last thing his community needs is another trash talker. Make him explain exactly why he thinks Obama has talked down to the A-M community. Jackson is jealous because he couldn't get elected to the presidency himself. Come to think of it, he has never been elected to anything. He wants to be a "player". Instead, he is... well... past his time. Way past.

    July 10, 2008 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  24. Jim

    Word on the street here in Chicago is that JR and SR do NOT get along to use SR words. Jesse SR should have known better. He was miked up in a TV studio. Shame on him. Obama 2008!!

    July 10, 2008 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
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