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

Roberts: What was Jesse Jackson thinking?


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. Willow, from Iowa

    And I found out that the Jackson family lives in the same neighborhood with Obama. Which means he lives near Ayers. Hm, maybe Jackson should apologize for living in the same neighborhood, just like they expected Obama to apologize.

    Jesse jackson just wanted another 15 minutes of fame, and it got out of hand. He should have just melted back into the distance, but he's been on CNN today several times. He should just become unavailable and it will all blow over, unless he continues to contact CNN about it.

    July 10, 2008 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  2. Janey/Michigan

    Jesse Jr threw Jesse Sr under the bus with Obama's Grandma. It must be getting crowded under there! So much for family loyalty-I sure would stick up for my parent over a politician!

    July 10, 2008 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  3. Tim

    This isn't news!!!! Hey CNN!!! How about talking about the McCain camp calling americans whiners and claiming we are in a mental recession??? How dare he call me a whiner when I am a hard working american, who doesn't just spend, but am having a hard time with rising gas prices. You have some nerve!!!

    July 10, 2008 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  4. Bob Indianapolis, IN

    Yo Jesse, who's next on the hit list, Bill Cosby?

    July 10, 2008 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  5. John

    It doesn't matter whether he thought the mike was on or off. What matters is what he believed, as evidenced by what he said.

    July 10, 2008 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  6. carmen

    Jackson was thinking about himself and his own illegitimate child and affairs while married. Obama's views must have stung him. That and the enduring limelight Obama seems to have captured.

    July 10, 2008 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  7. Obama-Junkie, IL

    Simply put, Rev. Jackson is jealous of Obama.

    July 10, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  8. PUMA-SF

    Jackson said exactly what he thinking. There's no way to spin out of this. He doesn't trust Obama nor does he like him. He's being forced to tow the line just like everyone else but at least he's Black so he won't be accused of being a racist. Obama remains unqualified to be president. If he is on the top of the ticket my vote will go to McCain.

    Puma Power

    July 10, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  9. The Truth

    Ok. Jesse Jackson, this arican american woman officially has NO respect for you!!!

    Obama '08

    July 10, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  10. interesting

    From my sources, Jackson let a private issue get made public. Like many far left wing liberals, there are blacks who are VERY MAD at Obama from what I hear.

    They don't like his flip flop when it comes to FISA, DC Handgun Ban and the 2nd Amendment, Refining Iraq War Stance, Support of Bush's Faith Based Initiatives.

    Like Rev. Wright felt for 20 years, many people feel that Obama has used him to get where he is at. But, when you fall for anything, you are perceived as a fool.

    So let those who picked this disgrace, suffer the consequences.

    July 10, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  11. Charlotte

    What we all think, Obama panders worst then anybody. He needs white votes now. The percentage of black unweds and missing fathers is the highest. More of them are flakes then any other race..

    July 10, 2008 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  12. mk

    Jackson, a pastor, civil rights activist, who has fathered a child out of wedlock, whose other son is a co-chairman of Obama's campaign made these hateful ugly remarks? How can he not realize that he hurts more than he helps by opening up his mouth??

    July 10, 2008 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  13. not important

    Jesse Jackson wasn"t thnking anything.

    July 10, 2008 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  14. Puma=Republicans Posing as Democrat Bloggers

    Jackson needs to seek help.

    July 10, 2008 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  15. David from Ohio

    Jesse Jackson wasn't thinking at all and hasn't done so for some time.

    July 10, 2008 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  16. Desiree

    This was an accident, Jesse Jackson did not know his mic was on. I can understand that Jesse Jackson wants Obama to talk more about poverty issues and other issues he doesn't feel Obama is addressing, he just said it in front of a hot mic, he did not mean for the whole country to hear what he said. BTW, this is America and he should be entitle to his opinion.

    July 10, 2008 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  17. Cynthia

    Jessie Jackson said what he said, apologized for it and Senator Obama accepted the apology – so let's move on. I agree with what Senator Obama said about fathers being fathers and it applies to all communities – there are absentee fathers in every community.

    I want to hear more about Gramm's comments about our mental ression – I'd love to hear his explanation of that one.

    July 10, 2008 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  18. Jason

    It appears not everyone is on board the Obama train as it steams onwards without concern for criticism

    July 10, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  19. Jeff

    "Jesse Jackson" and "thinking" should not be used in the same sentence.

    July 10, 2008 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  20. Mike, Syracuse NY

    Jackson is annoyed that Obama isn't preaching the same tired sermon he and Sharpton have been for the last 45 years. That message is that all black problems are caused by white people. That was probably more true than not in 1960. Today the opposite is true. You can't fix a problem before you admit there is a problem.

    July 10, 2008 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  21. Romulus, Michigan

    Many men like Jackson, who try hard to obtain a goal and can't reach it for whatever the reason. The reasons can be of their doing or just the time isn't right, they want to hurt the person that does make it.

    This often happens in many cultures, but the problem has particularly destructive effect among the African American males. Jackson's statement truly reflexes envy, a hard thing for many people to deal with effectively and positively.

    July 10, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  22. Lisa

    Seem like everyone is getting thrown under the bus. The grandmother, The Kids, Bill, Hillary, even Obama got threw under himself by Jesse Jackson!!

    July 10, 2008 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  23. Dusacre

    I don't know why Jesse Jackson can say and think such things about Obama. It is beyond me. Throughout the human history, those who work and fight for better tomorrow very often don't recognize it when it comes because it often comes in much unexpected way. This is the problem of Jesse Jackson and many of his generation.

    If you can make a child, then you should do your best to take care of that child. There is nothing wrong about saying it.

    July 10, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  24. Hell to pay

    Its a good thing it was Jessie that blundered and not some "white persons" remarks. There would be riots in the streets for days, firing of that person, name caling of that person. That person woudl have to "pay" big time. Jessie is getting off easy.

    July 10, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  25. Debbie,Ewing,Nj

    interesting. Blacks aren't mad at Obama for flip flopping or anything of the sorts. There are blacks who never supported Obama. And it is sad to say that we as a Black race have always had problems supporting one another. I'm not saying you have to vote for the guy just because he's black but you don't have to partcipate in trying to bring him down, like the BET owner, whatever his name is. Everyone is entitled to his opinion but Blacks have enough people hating their progress so we don't need to be stomped on by our own race.

    July 10, 2008 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
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