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. John A Meredith

    Obama, McCain or any of the rest of them are simply the hand picked
    lackeys of Corporate America. Anyone who doesn't get that fact is living in a dream world. None of these people has the slightest bit of integrity.
    The current political scene in America has all the characteristics of a very bad production of Gilbert and Sullivan.
    Nothing that John Mclaughlin said about Obama is offensive.
    It's TRUE!
    Further more, it needs to be stated that both the McCain and Obama camps showed how superficial and out of touch they are with the American Electorate by their over reaction to the New Yorker Magazine cover. Neither Barack Obama or John McCain deserve the slightest bit of respect from anyone.
    Wake up folks. You are being sold a load of manure by all the politicians and so far you're buying all of it.

    July 14, 2008 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  2. F. Taylor

    It's all just the news medias and their thirst for the sensational.

    July 14, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  3. D.D.

    I am a Black/American Indian woman who is married to a Caucasian man. I have been labeled an "Oreo" by both Blacks and Whites.

    It hurts my heart that this country is STILL as "hung up" on race as it is.

    July 14, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  4. david

    Come on , Cut this out. There is nothing wrong about his statement at all. I think sometimes we act like a seven year old kid. There is nothing wrong with Oreo expression and he was not the only one to be called that. Operah used to be labeled that way and I am sure many more.

    July 14, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  5. JT

    Sad, sad, sad. This just shows that America is not ready for a President of color. Sad but true. He is probably smarter than McLaughlin. That old goat may be hitting on some dementia.

    July 14, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  6. Dawn

    Why is it that a white person can make a racist comment and everyone excuses it because they are old or don't understand. However, let a black person make a racist remark and they are angry and somehow scary. I don't get it. (I'm white by the way)

    July 14, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  7. ss8ty

    FIRE HIM!!!!!!!!!

    July 14, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  8. alone in VT

    think of the context........
    Does Obama have to exhibit certain stereotypes of his black side race?
    stereotypes are a form of racism......If he can not say anything bad about a black person I say this country is not ready for a black president

    July 14, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  9. Syd

    The media is not respecting the true form of journalism; they are watering down themselves by becoming more of a public opinon voice. Sad, really sad.

    Media, please give us the facts and stimulate our thoughts with proper journalism. Taking pot shot at anyone or anything is just ignorant and uneducated. Leave the name calling to the ordinary man on the street or in your private conversations.

    July 14, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  10. Daniel Mayinja

    Yet another one of these.
    But this source doesn't surprise me, unfortunately.
    What surprises me is that Maclaughlin is still a head on TV with his Turkey neck and shallow, weak, and archaic stream of thinking ...
    If it was a mistake, I forgive you, carelessness - forgiven, but learn, henceforth to SHUT UP.

    July 14, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |

    THE MEDIA are trying to "break-up" the strong relationship African Americans have with Obama – it's so transparent.

    Since when do guys like McLaughlin understand what it's like to be called an OREO because (1) you can speak intelligently and think independently (aka "flip-flopping") , (2) you PUSH self-accountablity within the Black Community along along with social support – EVERYBODY MISSED THAT POINT and (3) you demand EXCELLENCE within the Black community? You cant say it's ok because Black people say it to each other??? THAT'S YOUR EXCUSE??? Bobby said it in a rap song, Vanessa said it in the elevator, so I can say it ON NATIONAL TELEVISION?!?!? Grow up!!

    Besides, I'd rather have a president that wears flip-flops than concrete boots (Pres. "Stay the Course" BUSH). BLACK OR WHITE – debating someone's race is POINTLESS. No matter how much Starbucks I drink, I OWN MY BLACKNESS and SO DOES OBAMA!! It's mine! AND IT IS NOT UP TO DEBATE!!

    OBAMA '08

    July 14, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  12. Alan

    Not offended by the question because he set the tone of the comment up front by defining what he thought the term to mean. If the conversation just started with the question I would consider othwise. We need to lighten up on these things or we kill the dialogue

    July 14, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  13. SJ

    Racism is very real, and comes in many diffrent forms. Some say this man might have been joking, or his comments were not out of line but i think they were. Just because people have been saying it does not justify the fact that it should not be said....seriously now.

    July 14, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  14. p alfonso

    McLaughlin expressed his views. He exercised his Freedom of Speech.
    Whenexercise our freedom we do not have to look for approval or the opinion of others, we just say it as we see it. Isn't that freedom?
    Not everyone have to like what we say. We may not like what others say but that's OK they have their given right to say what they think.
    The whiners in our society need to learn how to take it just as well as they can ditch.
    No group holds special rights to our language. If blacks can refer to other blacks as Oreos; whites, asians and hispanics have the same right.

    July 14, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  15. D. Hunter

    As a 48 year old whte woman who has been married to an african-american for the past 27 years, I'm sick of hearing all the racial comments, especially when it comes out of the mouth of people like John McLaughlin. He shouldn't be in this line of work. He should be removed from his position.

    The world is harsh enough without idiots adding to it. IF THEY DON'T HAVE ANYTHING DECENT TO SAY – THEY SHOULD SHUT UP.

    July 14, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  16. Anonymous

    Really a sad commentary of our "educated" environments of this day.
    We all seek a better life for those around us and ourselves, and it's too bad that some believe their perspectives are the only perspectives and that someone is out to get them....( take away entitlements)
    At a time of great concern, why are those with more responsibility ...irresponsible, unwilling to support a great move forward....maybe there's a feeling that somehow what has been sown will be reaped..God help us all....

    July 14, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  17. mjmartin

    This is so sad. I find this very offensive. Maybe it's retirement time ........ There has to be some responsibility for what we say. I am 71 yrs old and this is a comment I would expect from adolescents.

    July 14, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  18. Femi


    July 14, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  19. Cissy

    C'mon people, get a life. "Tasteless and offensive" is what Presidential politics is all about. The media just wants to shake things up, and by responding to this type of stupidity, you are giving them what they want. Listen to what the candidates are saying, and not the talking heads.

    July 14, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  20. Ed from PA

    And they say Obama "plays" the race card. They say no one ever says anything racist about him.

    July 14, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  21. caywen

    I'm not sure these guys are coming out of the woodwork to hurt or help Obama. These kinds of things make my resolve to contribute to Obama's campaign even stronger.

    July 14, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  22. BHO Not my candidate

    Race is race, ignoring and calling comments racisim is wasted the speach... the truth is this is just a comment true racism is slavery or what went on during the 60-70s... this is just childs play... Now please go in the corner your on a 5 minute timeout.... Deal with it America..

    July 14, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  23. James

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

    Funny! It's unfair but didn't say it was untrue. LOL I just had to point that out. All Dems are Reps are only out for their own wealth. Let's get a really 3rd party candidate in there that actually cares for our country and not their pockets and bed buddies.

    July 14, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  24. Joe, Chicago

    Senator Obama's leadership will help this country largely get past race as a barrier. We will be a better country as far as how we see and respect people during and after an Obama Presidency.

    He does an excellent job of leading by example and always taking the high road.

    July 14, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  25. Miko Kansas City

    How sad that Obama is picked apart by both his white side and his black side!! He is trying in the midst of all of the talking, trying to get past that. He is strong to endure this as long as he has

    July 14, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
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