July 14th, 2008
03:01 PM ET
10 years ago

McLaughlin takes heat for 'Oreo' comment

John McLaughlin's comments have caused controversy.

John McLaughlin's comments have caused controversy.

(CNN) - Longtime Washington talk-show host John McLaughlin is facing fire Monday for referring to Barack Obama as an "Oreo" during a segment on his Sunday political program, "The McLaughlin Group.

The veteran Washington journalist was discussing the recent comments from the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who was caught last week by an open microphone on Fox News saying the Illinois senator is "talking down to black people" as he campaigns for the White House. Those remarks were largely seen in reference to Obama's recent admonishment at a Chicago church of some black men who he said were not living up to their responsibilities as parents.

Referencing Jackson's comments, McLaughlin said Obama "fits the stereotype blacks once labeled as an Oreo - a black on the outside, a white on the inside."

"Does it frost Jackson, Jesse Jackson, that…an Oreo should be the beneficiary of the long civil rights struggle which Jesse Jackson spent his lifetime fighting for?" McLaughlin asked his panelists.

The term "Oreo" is often viewed as a derogatory term toward some African-Americans who appear not to exhibit certain stereotypes of their race.

Watch: McLaughlin's comments cause uproar

Panelist Peter Beinart, a senior fellow on the Council of Foreign Relations, immediately called that depiction of Obama "completely unfair."

Michelle Bernard, another panelist on the program and the president of the Independent Women's Forum also said she disagreed with the comments, saying "If Barack Obama is an Oreo, then every member of this generation of African-Americans is an Oreo, because we stand on the shoulders of the people who fought for our rights, and all of us say that you cannot blame 'the man' or white racism for everything that ails the black community."

Roland Martin, a CNN contributor and host of a syndicated radio show, says some people may be overreacting to McLaughlin's remark.

"Obama's candidacy is bringing to light to the internal conversation that is taking place in black America and white America. I think a lot of people are uncomfortable with the dialogue," he said. "If John McLaughlin was an African American and who had made the comment, people would have said, well, he probably understands what he's talking about."

"The reality is we also have a white, his mother is white and his dad is from Kenya," Martin also said. "I think that is the qualifier there and this is a debate that you have heard take place inside of the black community that you also have people who question someone like Obama, where does he stand? Is he black enough?"

soundoff (529 Responses)
  1. Rosalynn

    That ugly demon keeps rearing it ugly head! "Racism" however suttle it keeps coming out. People that would swear up and down that they are not raciest keep letting their feelings be known. This country's history is built on racism and they don't know how to turn it off.

    July 14, 2008 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  2. TheTruthHurts

    I overreacted. This ain't that bad. He wasn't calling him an Oreo. He was using language that is used in the Black Community all the time (15 years ago). Poor taste, but not that bad.

    July 14, 2008 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  3. Jeremy

    This certainly helps Obama more than it hurts him. The only people who would legitimately have doubts about Obama's commitment to the African American community are African Americans. Most African Americans will likely take offense to a white person using this derogatory term about Obama. This will only cause this community to become more united in its distaste of irrelevant racist neocons.

    July 14, 2008 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  4. Geri

    I neither agree or disagree with this comment but those of you who are so angry may want to stop and think of what will happen if Obama does become President. Is freedom of speech going to be out the window because some people do not approve of what a reporter or the media say and everything has to be censored. He very rarely brought up his white heritage until after he was designated the nominee. He knew this would happen and so did all Obama supporters. Take all these comments with a grain of salt and stop behaving in such a nasty way.

    July 14, 2008 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  5. Canuck

    anyone who says mclaughlin is right wing should start watch his show. he constantly critisizes the current administration. like chris matthews, and keith oberdork, he is just another talking head who constantly says stupid things.

    if it is all about race, think about the 93% of african americans voting for BO. hmmmm, i wonder why.

    July 14, 2008 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  6. Henry

    this is simple case of divide and conquer..don't fall for this crap...............

    July 14, 2008 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  7. Lola

    It is clearly apparent that the divide and conquer tactic is being used by those who cannot believe Obama has the "audacity to be elected President of the United States. This is not a right or left issue or even a Black or White issue. It is the older generation that really cannot grasp the need for change and placing the old ways completely in the past. Their fear of getting lost in the shuffle has clouded their judgement.

    July 14, 2008 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  8. Kobs

    Guess what,
    If you pple. have been listening to this guy all those yrs, you should not be surprised. His bodies esp. the likes of Buchanan alwys drawn the few decent voices on that show. I have watched and my kids always ask me why do you watch such a batch of undesciplined pple. No one listens to the other, compete for airtime and often others with a truck record of sound arguments like one of their ladies are shupup or closed off.
    So why does this come as a surprise.are they not republican's. Was it not that party which was in power when Katrina struck.
    PPle. "Not this time". They are using every trick and tactic to distruct the nation. Have you not seen the cover page. How can one in a sound mind at this moment in time comme up with such a cover where through what we know just being suspected of a Bin laden surpprot could get you arrested accrossed the continent and burnished to Gwantanamo without anyone knowing your where abouts. Talk of not being proud !!!
    What was he thinking!!!!

    July 14, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  9. Dave

    In a vacuum the comment might have been a blunt, but accurate, way to express what some in the country, in all races, might think.

    The problem is, as always, context. Every week there is a segment of the show that attempts to condemn or attack Obama on a range of issues right out of the RNC handbook. The problem is that John McLaughlin can't help heimself and had to go over-board.

    Michelle Bernard mentioned the generational difference between Obama and Jackson. What she didn't mention was the generational difference between McLoughlin, along with Buchannan, and the rest of the sober-thinking world.

    It's not the 50's anymore John! Wake UP!

    July 14, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  10. John

    Yes I am Black, or some would say african american, Mc Laughlin, was only repeating what lot of african americans call another, who is striving to make a difference, understand what he (Mc Laughlin) is saying, he is not calling Obama an oreo, do not crucify this man, let's have sisible dialogue, we all need to get use to dicussions and comments in the next few months that are not always mean spirited , each time a someone talks about race, whether they are black or white please listen to, and read it twich before you rush to judgement.

    July 14, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  11. Sharon

    He was just making a point but I don't agree with the word he used. CNN are you going to have a story everytime someone says anything. Obama got the media eating out of his hand. I wish you would check his background. There are many unanswered questions.

    July 14, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  12. JeromeM

    It is amazing the the dialog that Obama who uses racist comments to address whites and Hispanics daily would be stifled each and every time it is a white person having the dialog.

    July 14, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  13. Winston

    I'm glad Barack Obama is staying above water after all barrage of person attacks on him the past few days.

    McLaughlin, "Hes a Oreo"

    Jesse Jackson, "I want to cut his Nuts off"

    "New Yorker, Depicting him as a Muslim and his wife as a Black Militant"

    Through all of this Barack will prevail. My prayers and many others prayers are with him.

    July 14, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  14. VT

    You're wrong if you meet the stereotypes.

    You're wrong if you don't fit the stereotypes.

    What is a sensible African American to do?

    July 14, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  15. Mr.Bill of Rights

    "Freedom of Speach" is a 2 way street

    July 14, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  16. Ben in Atlanta, GA

    ...And by the way, 1 in 3 white Americans has black ancestry. And we all ultimately came from Africa.

    The whole issue of how Americans define "race" (people originating from separate origins) is completely absurd.

    July 14, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  17. Rob

    First, everyone's entitled to his own opinion. If you don't like what someone says about you, get out of the public spotlight! Who hasn't said something "wrong" about someone else behind there back? Occasionally, someone else overhears such comment; that's what happened here.

    As for the New Yorker: freedom of speech; freedom of the press. 'Nough said about that. Get over it.

    Obama and McCain are constantly telling us what they would do to change things if they were president. The fact is that both are actively elected Senators. Why aren't they on Capitol Hill carrying out those "promises" now? Actions speak louder than words.

    July 14, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  18. SARAI


    July 14, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  19. Old Stradlater

    The problem with a white person calling a black person an "oreo," is that it is attempting to validate stereotypes. In a sense, it is a somewhat racist term, because it implies that Obama isn't the way he should be as a black man – implying that all black men have to be a certain way (i.e. the Jesse Jackson mold). The same would apply to any phrase that implied a person of a particular ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or race wasn't ________ enough.

    If you can't see the subdued racism in that, then you are truly ignorant.

    July 14, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  20. Patricia White-Parkes

    Holy cow! How can there be so many stupid people in America on Televised media shows?! My Lord get Mc'd off the air.

    July 14, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  21. baker

    What a worm,John!

    July 14, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  22. olufemi Ajibode

    It's a big shame to hear this kind of comment from an old man like J M who had been in the talk show for so long. I lived in europe and i am a blackman,it seems a lot of americans have to come down here to see how multicutural relationship had really grown.

    July 14, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  23. boered1

    How can you people say that this is an accurate description of Obama? While I have often heard the term Oreo used, and it is considered derogatory, I also think it is really a NON term. Simply speaking it is a term used to say that if you are a black who does not act "ghetto" you are somehow violating a "rule of blackness" the simple fact is that many whites act "ghetto" don't graduate school and are gang-bangers just as there are MANY blacks who get an education, and actually conform to the general publics impression of what it means to be an AMerican. To often being intelligent and doing something with your life is looked down on in this country, look how many people think being college educated and being enjoying some cultural items (be they a ballet, a symphony, or even a latte) is somehow a bad thing. This Oreo comment is of the same track: Ghetto Blacks call it acting white and the white trash call it being elitist. Reasonable, intelligent people call this stupid and glorifying the lowest denominator of this country. Instead of aspiring to being better than an uneducated ditch-digger or drug peddler most of the people who call others "elitist or Oreo" are happy to be the idiots who cry about the big bad educated people.


    July 14, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  24. enlightenme29

    Its great this dialogue is finally being brought to the forefront in America which will happen for a candidate who is not just fighting the typical powers for African Americans or minorities but for ALL.

    To those who have made comments about what terms african americans make towards each other compared to their being comments made if a white person says the same:
    A little history for you. The N word and other superlatives were used to make a positive spin on the negativity of its original users. AA have now progressed and you will find many who no longer want the words used. The use of oreo and this reporters referencing was ill informed and quite ignorant. He is not connected to the AA community and in the true definition of the word a N@#$%. A Ni@#$$% is a person who is ignorant or not knowing. This host is the true sense of the word in this regards. See how issues come full circle? đŸ™‚

    July 14, 2008 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  25. Steve

    I am sick and tired of people taking comments seriously. With all this publication on who called who what name this week, we can be, I don't know, doing something better with our time? Wow, what a crazy concept. So some guy called Obama an oreo. So, what? People's feelings (or feewings, as I see) get hurt all the time. I'll tell you what people. For all you out there that get offended by such petty comments, and your WHOLE WORLD has to stop because you get your feathers ruffled, here's an idea. Go get yourself some Johnson & Johnson's No More Tears shampoo, and get back with society when you stop whining so much about unimportant things. We have bigger problems in this country than some name-calling. You don't think other races and backgrounds get called names? Please.

    July 14, 2008 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22