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. Sue

    Can't you people see what's ahead if Obama is elected? Will Americans have their tongues sliced out if anyone says something that offends someone else? Are we not to notice that Obama is black on the outside? Are we to have some of our brain lobes cut out because of our memories? Will the 2nd amendment be changed to fit someone's idea of what offends or not?

    July 14, 2008 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  2. William

    I think Obama and his followers are way to sensitive to be considered to be 'Commander In Chief'.

    If you can't take the heat, get out of the fire.

    I think Mr. McLaughlin was making a valid point and didn't mean anything offensive.

    PC and sensitivity have gone too far.

    July 14, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  3. Gary Mutir

    Oh please,give me a break.What`s with all this fake outrage.Bill Cosby,Larry Elder,Armstrong and Black Republicans are called that name,sometimes even worse.Where was the outrage all these years?I have not seen anyone whining about racism about that.Even white Democrats can even call us what they want and and everyone will just look the other,blacks included.Blacks who do not support the Democrats have gotten used to this kind of nonsense over the years.Now that it is Obama,everyone thinks it is outrageous.You are a bunch of hypocrites.

    July 14, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  4. kate

    I feel his choice of words were not meant the way they came out. But the racism is on both sides not just white but black also. I think it is great that Obama wants African-American men to step up. Both white and black men need to step up.

    July 14, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  5. Don Colony14Author, Mt Prospect, IL

    Time to retire, John. there is no room for remarks like that in this day and age.

    Having said that, I see his point. It must certainly annoy the heck out of Jesse Jackson to see Obama get the nomination he coveted for so long. Jackson was seen as much too liberal and extreme by many, and now here comes Obama – who makes Jackson look like a moderate Republican! (Hey, at least Jackson believes in capitalism. You can't shake down a nationalized industry, can you?)

    July 14, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  6. Brian in Bethesda

    Bad word choice, agreed. Do I think he meant any malice by it? No. On another note, has anyone seen an actual picture of Barack and his Mom or Dad? How about his half sister in Indonesia? Just curious.

    July 14, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  7. Eddie B.

    If this race for the White House has been teaching us anything, it is that racism is alive and still thriving in this country. I continue to see commentators, bloggers, politicians, leaders of other groups, and the media become more brazen about their open ethnocentrism and racism. This Presidential race has brought out the hatred and prejudice that a number of people in this country still feel towards African-Americans.

    July 14, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  8. john

    The people who claim to be offended are not being honest. So many people today are trained to pretend to be offended at anything that has to do with race. I'll guarantee you those who claim to be offended are white people who think that's what they have to do. Notice black people aren't offended by the comments. He was right on...

    July 14, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  9. Maryann Rose

    Geeze, what is WRONG with people? After the New Yorker cover, I've about had it with racist comments about a fine man running for president.

    I'm not even voting for Obama (or McSame), but it's not right for him to be portrayed this way in the 21st century, where I'd like to think we've gotten over race already!

    Just makes me mad, and embarrased to be an American.

    July 14, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  10. Slim

    Canadians are getting awfully sick of this racist, sexist election. It's brought out the worst in our neighbours, and it makes us not want to show our children what's happening south of the border.

    We have taught our kids for generations that color and gender are irrelevant in establishing the true character of a person, and here is an election with three candidates, honourable in many different ways, and all the "political commentators" can do to differentiate them is highlight their gender or (lack of) skin pigment. McCain, the Clintons, and ignorant Americans who don't see this for the circus it is should be so utterly ashamed of themselves. In 50 years, Americans will look back on this election and shake their heads in disgust at the sickening behavior of so many citizens.

    July 14, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  11. sam the sham

    People keep dragging race into the equation with the question of Obama. I had NO idea people were so racist. Its like the whole "not my daughter" syndrome. People are just fine with black people until one might end up running the country. Just like they're cool with blacks until their daughter brings one home.

    This really is sad. And the whole "Oreo" thing is bad enough in the black community. If you speak correctly, or don't exhibit stereotypes, whites and blacks think you're trying to act white. As if implying that white is correct and black is inherrently incorrect. Blacks reinforce this horrible message, but it began with whites, and white categorization of so called "black traits". Lets end this. I pray to God Obama wins, so this can all once and for all be destroyed.

    July 14, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  12. DES NY

    I am part Irish, part African American, and part Native American. I grew up in a predominately white community that was involved in an urban-suburban program where inner city kids bused out to the suburbs for school. And in 5th grade, the African American inner city kids called me an "oreo".

    In 5th grade. That was the last time I heard the term. It's been 23 years. I am so sadly disappointed that we can't move past the name calling and labeling.

    Grow Up America Please

    July 14, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  13. Anne

    It's sickening that EVERY SINGLE WORD said by journalists and polititians alike is scrutinized under a microscope....Jeez! This comment is completely being taken out of context. Let's discuss something that really matters!

    July 14, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  14. Staunton, VA

    Don Imus has a job on CNN now? Or was that the ghost of Jesse Helms speaking? Plenty of people on here are saying "just another old white guy," but for decades, these old white guys, with their racist thoughts either kept to themselves or uttered openly, WERE the news industry. We took our information from these people. The times they are (finally) a-changin', and it can't come soon enough. In January 2009, America will swear in an African-American president, and this white girl will be PROUD!

    July 14, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  15. Monica

    Im a Canadian living in the United States. I find the level of bigotry and racism in this country truly appalling. It is so inbred, especially in older Americans, that they cant even see it. When will we truly get beyond a person's skin color ... im afaid I just dont comprehend why it matters????

    July 14, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  16. PATSY


    July 14, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  17. Jim

    oh yes, USA is the greatest country. The most racist country out of the industrialized nations, losing financially to Bin Laden, everyone in the world hates the US, and they are the #1 sponsor of terrorism since they are the ones who brought weapons to the Middle East. Why don't you Americans go choke on your war mongering.

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

    It is time for racial, ethnic and gender stereotypes of all kinds to be stamped out, put away, and spoken out against when they are used by ignorant people. I never thought of McLaughlin as an ignorant man, but I do now. He certainly knows exactly what he is saying. This nonsense disturbs me greatly. I will not be watching McLaughlin ever again and I hope that others will do the same.

    It is time for everyone to be responsible for their families and their choices. Fathers of all races run out on their kids. I know a few in my white family that have walked away, causing irreparable harm to their children. The message that Obama has about this is good for everyone to listen to. Why must everything be a race issue? It is a human issue.

    Barack Obama has the ability to bring very diverse groups of people together to make America stronger, better, and a beacon to the world once again. I don't care what race you belong to...stop throwing stones in his path.

    July 14, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  19. Daniyal, Houston Texas

    Man, what a dumb comment. Is he mad that Obama is acting white, or is he upset that obama isnt acting black. Either way its all an act. What gets to me is how a Man like Obama, educated, well read, and successful is being hailed as a sell out by the black community. Since when has being successful been the antithesis of being black. And its not just obama, any successful black person in this country is quickly labeled a "sellout" for getting an education, moving to the suburbs and providing a better lifestyle for themselves. Its as if being a successful black person in America is tantamount to some sort of Racial Treason.

    July 14, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  20. Barbicane

    Context, people, context.

    July 14, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  21. carol

    Why keep talking about it?

    Yes, it was wrong, but we can't do anything about it now.
    Focus on the big issue. Focus on all of the troops in Iraq.
    Focus on the people in the Middle East saying "Death to America!"

    Why can't we put race aside and join together as Americans?

    July 14, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  22. Naomi, Texas

    Good thing Obama does not let childish smears like this one and the one from The New Yorker stop him.

    Go Obama!

    July 14, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  23. Patrick

    Are people really this dumb or are they doing it to be offensive/ignorant on purpose? To show how stupid most people are regarding Obama:

    A Newsweek poll released Friday showed that 12 percent of those polled believed Obama was sworn in as a U.S. senator on a Quran, and 26 percent believed that he was raised as a Muslim. Neither is true.

    July 14, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  24. NoMccain

    The race issue has been beat to death. Comments like this are commonplace. I don't condone it, but I realize that racism still exists.
    Live with it people – don't let it control the election process though. We are beyond it, aren't we?

    July 14, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  25. Freida, NYC

    I am not an Obama supporter, but there are some serious ignorance issues among some Americans. Enough of this racial non-sense! America is facing serious hystorical issues, can we please focus on what's important?

    July 14, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
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