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. SIMP

    What surprises me is these news people who are always on the television or on the radio keep saying all the wrong things when it comes to Barack. Look, they are saying what they really mean and trying to cover it up is nothing more than a lie, this includes Jesse Jackson and his ignorant remarks.

    Obama 08

    July 14, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  2. Caryn

    I don't care if this was said about Obama or the man down the street – it is just wrong and shows how much America needs change. America is supposed to be the melting pot of the world yet there are still those that think this is "white" America. Actually, America is "red" – unless you are 100% Native American then you are an immigrant just like everybody else.

    July 14, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  3. LaShanda

    I am so tired of people thinking that there is some monolithic idea of "blackness" in the AA community. Every black person does not talk, look, or walk alike. We all have different experiences, but yet we are one family. Barack is NOT Jesse. He has not had his experiences. His experience is unique, and it does not make him less black. Yet it amazing that at the same time, he can relate to his white half as well. The only person I can think of that is the epitome of Oreo is Robin on Howard Stern's show. She hates her blackness! NOT Barack Obama!

    July 14, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  4. Real Americans Vote Issues

    You know, you all are right it IS OLD. People need to stop taking the word "racist" and throwing it around for every comment made about Obama's race. First of all, Obama doesn't bring it up, people bring it up to HIM. People ask him questions about race or ask him to comment on people's comments about him, and that's all. Obama or his camp have NEVER labeled anyone racist, the MEDIA does that. If you have actually ever read or listened they always say those comments are either "unfortunate" or "offensive". Its the media who has a bunch of pundits sitting around and dissecting everything. Not everyone who says anything about his race is racist, but you have to be careful in how your phrase these things. The only reason people are uncomfortable with race is because they hate to discuss things that reflective negatively on the past. Why don't we do the issues thing, then we don't have to worry about it. There are racists people who call him a Muslim, anti-American who are not going to vote for him because of race, but let's be realistic there are a lot of people who won't admit it to themselves. We all know race is going to play a factor, it just depends on how much we let it.

    July 14, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  5. Liam Danhof

    I'm not surprised. MCLuaghlin as always had a problem with any on or any thing that is not lilly white. He has always had a thing about women also. When will this ever stop? Liam Danhof

    July 14, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  6. Just another One

    As I read this story, I had to laugh. As a black man who has also been labeled an "Oreo" before, this shows the double edged sword of racism that we experience in this country. You're bad if you don't do well and you're bad if you do well! Obama is doing a good thing and some people can't handle it (some black and some white). It's great to see that he rises above it all and presses forward.

    July 14, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  7. hal

    It's a term that was used by blacks and whites. Get over it- he didn't say anything out of line.

    July 14, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  8. Carmen

    Okay–as an "oreo", thats got to be the dumbest thing any of the candidates have said...What a moron!!! Thats like calling mixed races creole or mulatto. Before politicians should speak, they should at least get their history right....I'm disgusted by this guys lack of intelligence. I'm sure he wouldn't pull out "whitey" or any other derogatory word for his own race??
    Come on man....get a grip...Very tasteless and VERY offensive to all of us "oreo's".......

    July 14, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  9. Quin/Louisiana

    Everything has made media headlines in this campaign, except what truly matters most. The issues this country is facing at present. No one has answered the issue of China, debt, and new fuel resources. Instead, we are caught up responding to religion, race, age, prejudices, hate, and other non sense.
    And, any African American who is offended by the use of the word, Oreo, check it's meaning. White America did not invent the word.

    July 14, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  10. dorothy martin

    too white or too black = racist usa

    July 14, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  11. Nt

    I'm black and I'm sure he meant no offence. Give the man a break !!

    July 14, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  12. Norbert

    The CNN-Obama campaign resorts so readily to the race card. First it was against Hillary, now McCain. CNN with its pandering to the minorities during this campaign season is alienating millions of voters and viewers. Its shameless abandon of objectivity is shocking and disgusting. Their self-appointed media elitists know what's best for us all, now don't they? Obama, Obama, Obama... that's all they talk about, day in and day out. Oh yes, there IS another candidate, isn't there? It worked against Hillary, but eventually it will backfire.

    July 14, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  13. marty from Indiana

    And now the racial game is turned up a notch. I knew before long it would be out front for all to see. People have tried not to show their prejudice and racism because it is not acceptable, but it is still there. Shame on America. shame on McLaughlin. "Oreo" is a totally racist term and should never be used about anyone... much less a man running for office. McLaughlin should step down from his show. What an aweful thing to say.

    July 14, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  14. elizabeth

    There is still a lot racism in this country, and it is being taught by the older generation.All of the comments are being made by the older ones. I think Obama, was right in talking to the black men, also THE REV. JESSIE JACKSON, was wrong in his comments.He is a man of God, and those thoughts should'nt be spoken to no one. I think JJ is jealous of Obama.

    July 14, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  15. C.NY

    I disagree with Andy J, NY comment which states "Once again, the its OK for the black community to use certain language, but its NOT OK for a white to say the same thing… hmmmm, sounds pretty darn racist to me"

    The term "Oreo" is not a positive terminology used within the black community and when used, it is not in a positive manner. It is an ignorant statement to call someone and oreo and this is recognized within the community. Hence, before you make claims that black people can say certain things that white people can't, i suggest you try and immerse yourself in the black community and learn about the accepted terms/words vs. those that aren't.

    Also, your definition of racism is off. Racism is about power relations. It has nothing to do with if someone likes another person based on their skin color.

    July 14, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  16. JC in SC

    Loose lips sink ships!!

    July 14, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  17. Dale

    While the recent media attention is sickening, let us look at the bright side. The unfinished business in America (better known as unequality) has a chance to take center stage and finally be dealt with.

    While there are many opportunites that exist for people of colour, that did not exist a few years ago, there is still something very real that is kept under the rug and hindering society of moving forward.

    July 14, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  18. TSAH

    1st he's too BLACK – then he's not BLACK ENOUGH – then he is talking down on BLACKS – then he not WHITE ENOUGH for Whites – now he's an OREO COOKIE walking around without any NUTS... GREAT DAY IN THE MORNING!!!

    Maybe tomorrow – he'll be BARACK OBAMA – the next President of the United States.... GO OBAMA!!!

    July 14, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  19. Jina

    I don't think it's okay to call ANYONE an Oreo, whether it's Obama or any other African American. It's a derogatory term that's generally used when black people work hard and succeed... and since when has that been a bad thing??? I thought that working hard and climbing your way up was part of the American dream, not something warranting an insult.

    July 14, 2008 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  20. Sandi Gore

    Isn't it interesting that so many well-placed people are revealing that they are racists?

    July 14, 2008 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  21. Richard, FL

    It is good that the mindless racists are identifying themselves.

    July 14, 2008 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  22. Jack

    Rob from Canada – How do you know the hateful remarks being posted are from Hillary supporters? As far as the "Oreo" comment: it was supposed to be an incindiary remark considering the incindiary subject matter. Stop playing the game people. You are all being made fools of.

    July 14, 2008 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  23. Bill springfield va


    July 14, 2008 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  24. Donna

    As an African American female who likes foreign movies, Coldplay and Nina Simone, I would hope that as a culture we had moved beyond stereotypes such as Oreo. I am sick of blacks and whites who insist on wanting to put me in a specific category. McLaughlin's remarks were completely out of line as were Rev. Jackson's.

    By the way, I hate Tyler Perry movies.

    July 14, 2008 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  25. Mark

    The only people that need to grow up are the people who think everything that is said is racist. its the new McCarthyism.

    July 14, 2008 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
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