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. TMoney

    I don't know any African Americans who would view Obama as an Oreo. That doesn't make any sense. I highly doubt that Michelle Obama would marry an Oreo, or that an Oreo would do so much work for the community in the south side of Chicago. Last time I checked, someone who is considered and Oreo is not of mixed race and does not do any work to help uplift the black community. This comment was clearly out of ignorance. Either way, Obama's ethnicity should not matter in this election. Vote or not vote for him based on his policy stances.

    July 14, 2008 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  2. Gary

    The point of Jesse Jackson's comment apparently was missed by most of the commenters on this page. That is sad.

    Let me explain it for you in easy terms. Jesse Jackson was involved in the black civil rights movement. Not the, act like you are a black guy, but really you are a white guy movement. The whole point in the movement was to have black people understood and treated fairly. Not that if you are raised by a white family (Obama) and have been raised white, but happen to be black, that somehow that makes the movement successful. He is acting like he lived the life of a black man, and this is somehow the result of that. It's not. It's the result of an entire lifetime, since age two, without A SINGLE BLACK PERSON AROUN HIM.

    If I were black, I would be offended that this guy is trying to act black to get votes.

    July 14, 2008 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  3. karen-phoenix

    All of these remarks and the new yorker cover are going to backfire on the republicans!!!! It is soooooo low and disgusting and a lot of us former "recovering republicans" and just say "go away republicans"–we have had way to much of your scare tackticks and lued remarks!! Go Obama!!!

    July 14, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  4. susan. malvern, pennsylvania

    Is Mr. McG unable to think before he speaks...................is his 'self- esteem' so great that he feels he will remain 'held in esteem' regardless of his petty, hurtful remarks.............retirement offers
    a great opportunity to leave the arena now, before he does any
    more damage...................for shame!

    July 14, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  5. Dedrick, Atlanta

    To all those who think say "Black have used this type of language for such a long time..." unfortunately you are right. SOME, not all, not the majority, but SOME blacks have used terms such as these and phrases that are much worse. However, that does not mean that all black subscribe to this type of rhetorical nonsense. Black enough? White enough? Oreo? Twinky? Seriously? We are all humans first and US citizens second. Stand up and be the great people that we are! The rest of the world is watching. And yes, I am a black man.

    July 14, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  6. Ronnie Smith, Cincinnatti, OH

    One of the tricks from Hillary Clinton's playbook. Obama doesn't need to worry about these Hillary backers, because he doesn't need their votes. Hillary voters – go and back McCain or stay warm in your homes. We can win without you!

    July 14, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  7. eoseph

    'oreo' is not to be used. this is an off color word that people should not have in their vocabulary, especially this distinguished man. obama is a man of color. his color is not important. people should be judged somewhat re: their accomplishments and their future mandate.

    July 14, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  8. sky

    Almost as offensive as the NewYorker cover.

    July 14, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  9. Torianto

    Will America ever solve it's birth conflict? It really makes me wonder as a Black male about the future of this country. It seems that the powers that be and even a few African-Americans are willing to do anything and I mean anything to keep Senator Obama from becoming President.

    First, Rev. Jackson makes ungodly statements about the Senator. Second, the New Yorker publishes an magazine with a very offensive cover of the Senator and his wife. And now this! I thought conservatives were the Christians or the representatives of Christ on earth. We have all seen the bumper stickers that state, "What would Jesus do?"

    Would Jesus approve of this?

    July 14, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  10. Ken

    The old fart McLaughlin suffers from what the rest of the media have: they are dumb and lazy. The constant hazing from the right, and the existence of news shops like FoxNews, have dumbed-down our media considerably. Sniffing for real stories and holding our elected officials accountable is now deemed anti-patriotic. What we have now, more and more, are self-important talking heads who make the story up as they go, who substitute their own opinion or storytelling abilities for real investigative reporting.

    I would agree with the poster who gave cudos to McLaughlin for bringing up a subject that is discussed in the black community IF that were why McLaughlin brought it up. But I don't think McLaughlin has any particular links with the black community, and all he was trying to do was to "stir the pot" with the use of controversial words. LAZY reporting at its best. We the American public are getting just what the right-wing bargained for.

    July 14, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  11. Joe

    So? And??

    July 14, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  12. pb

    Personally, I am sick of the black versus white scenario. When are we going to grow up as a nation and see person as just that, a qualified or unqualified man or woman running for president. Not a black man, a woman, a white man....etc. People have opinions but we cant express them. IF they are expressed and dont agree with the "political correctness" of the day, then it is viewed as racist, un-american, un-patriotic and so on. In my view neither candidate is qualified to run this country and for that matter, most of congress are not qualified. I wish the impossible...to impeach them all and start over!

    July 14, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  13. BP

    Obviously a poor choice of words on national tv. However, he does have a valid point in saying that Rev. Jackson is upset at the fact that Obama is not pushing his (Jackson's) racist beliefs.

    What McLaughlin said was a poor choice mainly b/c the media loves to make a big deal out of everything and use one sentence of an hour long talk. I don't think that it was all that racist, as most people I know (black, white, and hispanic) agree with the point he was making.

    All of this talk about race is so annoying. There are trashy/criminal/stupid people of all colors and there are well respected/educated/law-following people of all colors. If we could all just got over ourselves these useless news stories would not happen.

    July 14, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  14. Elariia

    Wow. First the New Yorker cover, now this. Oreo is a derogatory term (unless the speaker is referencing the cookie).

    I guess it's good that all this is coming "Out in the Open," as Paula Zahn would say, but, still, it's difficult to see that America has so much farther to go in racial understanding and tolerance.

    July 14, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  15. Nordstrom

    It's time for the McLaughlin family to do the right thing and put Grandpa in the nursing home, already.

    July 14, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  16. Jimmy

    Don, this is a response to your comment. Why don't some of you stand up?

    July 14, 2008 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  17. tony


    He is half-white. To accuse him of acting white is stupid. It is part of his heritage.

    July 14, 2008 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  18. Valerie

    Why is that a Black American cannot speak clearly and concisely WITHOUT someone saying you are trying to be white?!?!?! Catch 22 situation. Why can't Obama continue to be himself... if every speech he could not put together a complete sentence.... I guess that would make him a Double Fudge Oreo and everyone would be happy!!!!

    July 14, 2008 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  19. R in Cleveland

    What we are seeing with Barack Obama is the reality for many African Americans in this country. You don't really have a "camp". There are a segment of African Americans that don't view you as "black enough" and you'll never be white. You are in a no win situation. Everyone talks about wanting the most qualified candidate, mechanic, etc, but America really has a different set of standards for different ethnic groups, just except that reality!

    July 14, 2008 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  20. Oreo-bama

    It is yet to be known by all how TRUE Obama is ?

    Is he really what he looks like and says ?

    July 14, 2008 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  21. Steve, New York, New York

    Although I do not think that McLaughlin meant any harm (a far cry from McCain's outrageous comments about Iranians) . .this brings up the ugly color debate once again.

    You can do great things, attend 2 Ivy League schools, be head of Law Review at Harvard, go on to distinguish yourself as a US Senator . . .yet after all that, some people only care about your skin color and nothing else. That is a sad state of affairs.

    July 14, 2008 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  22. Sherry in Kentucky

    Yeah, that was pretty bad. Unfortunately many Americans his age grew up when saying "oreo" or the "N" word were totally acceptable. My Dad is one of them. He still doesn't understand the big deal about saying the "N" word and doesn't think he is racist. It's so frustrating. . . Yet, he is still voting for Obama. There might be hope. This next generation holds a lot of promise.

    Obama '08

    July 14, 2008 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  23. midwestforObama

    Between this and the New Yorker cover; I am so ashamed of the rampant superficiality in our country. Does anyone understand that Mr. Obama is taking the heat from all sides just for being courageous enough to run for President? This man is intelligent, brave, strong in character (family values & God) and has a warm personality that shows he cares on so many levels.
    How stupid are the people in our country, how low in self-esteem, how jealous – to be so threatened as to create controversy where none should exist.
    Barack Obama is a fine, globally rich human being who honors us with his run for Presidency. We need more to stand up and be vocal in a positive way for Barack Obama; a man of integrity and courage.
    Thank you – Woman for Obama in St. Louis

    July 14, 2008 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  24. Jp

    I'm a Black American, 43 years old, and if you are black in America you've heard the term "Oreo" used before. I lived in Hyde Park during my teen years so I'm sure the senator has heard the term as well. It's descriptive and pointed when coming from another black person, but I don't feel it's racist nor does it have the same effect coming from a white American. Black Americans have been excluded from this society for so long that a culture almost completely exclusive to Blacks in America has developed. It includes different music, speech patterns, social behaviors...it's just a fact. I work in an environment with NO other black people and have been referred to as not being really black because of the way I speak, funny since I could NEVER be mistaken for a white American.

    My point is this: If we're going to have a dialog, lets do that and stop attacking the terms that we hear in whispers when they are brought to the surface. If we all were a bit MORE "Oreo" we'd have less to fight about...

    July 14, 2008 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  25. Dale DFW

    When will we outlaw the word " BLACK" as being to offensive? The way we are heading, it will be very soon!

    I honeslty can't wait for this name calling, trash of an election to be over with. Why can't DEMS and REPS work together under just one name - UNITED STATES of AMERICA! We all live here and love our land, we have so many major issues in this country, that we can't even work with our fellow neighbors. How do you think we can work with others around the world?

    Any way you look at it - IT IS ONLY GOING TO GET MORE AND MORE NASTY!

    July 14, 2008 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
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