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. Sean Foots, Chicago, IL

    im a junior in college and i've had to deal with people calling me an oreo since i was in middle school.

    its stereotypical bordering racist

    to say black people act a certain way and white people act a certain way

    its a generational thing....most people in my generation barely recognize race. unfortunately people born in the 70's and earlier are just too ignorant to move beyond such foolish ways

    and they decide to teach their kids to do the same

    thankfully the only thing more powerful than parental pressure is peer pressure

    thats what will fix this country in time....a students best friend telling them not to make such racial comment because they are simply false.

    July 14, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  2. gg

    It's people like McLaughlin who believe they are morally superior, yet in the dark of the night, in their little girl underpants, they show us just how hateful, mean-spirited, and ignorant they really are. So, this joke of a man, this hate-monger, this crude (christian, i'm sure), racist pig, will apologize and many will forget. But some of us remember and will continue the fight against the arrogance of the mock elite. CNN you should be ashamed.

    July 14, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  3. Loretta from California

    In my 40+ years as a black women on this earth... I have never heard another black person use the word "Oreo" to describe another African American.


    July 14, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  4. Obama4change

    This is very, very offensive!! Obama is an intelligent man and it is mostly the older generation that are having a difficult time with the spectacular success in his life as well as in becoming the democratic nominee. That includes older whites and blacks such as John McLaughlin and Jesse Jackson. Obama worked hard for everything he has and if he was white it would not be a problem. If he was white he would be adored by both white and blacks like President Kennedy was. The problem is that he is black. It is very painful watching attacks on Senator Obama. No one is attacking McCain! Not white or black people according to the Media. Why is that???? Who are the CEOs of the media - old white men. This is why they like McCain and are an using their power to slam Senator Obama.

    July 14, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  5. Kiah

    This country is full of race issues. Anyone who denies it after these few months leading up to the election is a blind fool.

    What else will they call him?

    Obama '08!

    July 14, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  6. Hillary Backer for McCain

    This is soo unfair, why are we wasting time talking about this when we should come up with a cercerted effort to help pay down Hillary's debt which was incurred during the primaries. A primary which failed to allow her to become the next President.

    July 14, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  7. Stuff the political correctness

    white – black – oreo – honky – cracker – yellow – red – brown. If we cannot use the words and talk openly on this topic, we will never get ahead. All the political correct junkies out there need to chill out a bit.
    And before the Obamabots cry foul, this is NOT some vast right wing conspiracy.

    July 14, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  8. Dr.Mimi De La Cruz




    July 14, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  9. nobushthirdterm.com

    Man, this election season seems to be drawing out these bigoted old white men who can't help but show their real colors.

    July 14, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  10. Jeff

    What's funny to me is, that if a comment equally "offensive" directed towards...oh, i don't know...George Bush, John McCain, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, ect...it'd be laughed at and called good humor. Yet, when this sort of comment is directed at Obama, or comments are made towards illegals being here illegally...or hell, even when Hillary made some comments towards Obama (truthful comments I might add) his campaign is all up in arms. Is it America that needs to grow up, or those who are leading our counrty. I don't hear George Bush (though I am not really a fan of the guy myself) complain and freak out every time he's made fun of. Double standard??

    July 14, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  11. Chortle

    Why are so many of you so critical of a word? Don't you have any real principles to defend? Remember, the meaning is more important than your sensitivities. "Oreo" is, historically, a real (if no longer in wide use) description that has been out there for years. Stop policing the language and look for a real cause.

    July 14, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  12. Mr. Big Shot

    what did he say that was wrong? he was making a simile comparing obama to a oreo...big deal. this racism stuff is getting out of hand, Only white people are racist, blah blah blah..
    wonder when the next cival war will begin?

    July 14, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  13. adam

    I am an African American male however i think Jesse Jackson comments were unnecessary and I think Barack Obama speaks some truth about African American dads and men need to step to the plate, although i don't fall in that category, I am still for my race, but if we challenge ourselves to be better people we can not have any of our dirty laundry in the air which would give the media or anyone very little bad to say about our race, and most people that call someone an "oreo" just shows how small minded people can be. I will never 'hate' on another black man or multiracial or a man of any race because he is educated, because he made a choice to be, and if someone called me an 'oreo' because I am educated i wouldn't let it bother me, instead they should be asking how can I move into your direction.

    July 14, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  14. H. Charles

    To be perfectly honest, there's no such thing as being black enough, white enough, asian enough, etc. Barack Obama is a man and being a man means that you take care of yourself, your family, you have a will to succeed, you want to help make the world a better place, and you don't let the status quo or opposition stop you from achieving your goals. Regardless of whether he is black, white, or both, he's a man first and he is doing as men should do. He and John McCain are two men who have done great things during their lifetime. Right now they have different views on how this country should be run. I would hope that all of you will vote for one or the other because of his views and not his skin color.

    July 14, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  15. Vanessa

    Its unbelievable how people in the media are still so IGNORANT, STUPID and RACIST!!!!

    July 14, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  16. Richie

    wow, someone tell me what all these people want Obama to do?

    July 14, 2008 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  17. Phil, FL

    Typical republican remark. I can only imagine what else is being said.

    Shame Shame. This country has progressed too far to let the likes of this "crap" set us back. They are playing to the ignorant few – and it works on the ignorant.

    Obama '08/'12

    July 14, 2008 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  18. sdl

    Would you all rather that NOBODY talked about the issue?
    Or many OTHER issues on both sides?

    No matter what color the person leading the discussion is, initiating a reasoned, intellectual, and open dialogue HAS TO happen to air ALL the simmering but unadmitted issues on all sides.

    Just like patriotism vs service in the military, and many more out there, not being able to talk openly and intelligently and discuss the hidden thoughts only allows it to grow in silence.

    How the heck are we supposed to resolve and move past if we pretend the issues don't exist???

    July 14, 2008 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  19. cbenji in NYC

    white on the inside? because he's educated and articulate? jeez... sometimes i truly feel this country is beyond fixing.

    July 14, 2008 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  20. Billy J -Austin-Tx

    uhh... what's wrong with the question? Was he just not supposed to say Oreo? Or can he not ask if there is segment of black america that is uncomfortable with Obama over something (in this case percieved white pandering on that segments part)

    What is going on? How much longer do we have to wait to be able to speak openly about race or gender without having a scarlet letter sewn on us. It is one thing to insult, it is another to ask a question or debate. And that is what he did. Asked a question, to start a debate. Sheeeeeesh.....

    July 14, 2008 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  21. lil

    I dont care who said it. I dont like it being said and I dont like what
    Roland said either. Roland how would you feel if you were called an
    oreo. Thats just as bad as being called the "N" word ,no excuse for
    that comment nor by mclaughlin nor Roland's defense.

    July 14, 2008 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  22. Angel

    Yes, the truth does hurt and it shall set you free!!!!

    This Africa- American Democrat (who's also been called an Oreo in her lifetime) thanks you for not being afraid to speak the truth Mr. McLaughlin.

    Dem for McCain!

    July 14, 2008 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  23. bob in L.A.

    At what point do we stop thinking everything said is negative and look at it for what it is?
    Obama claims to not be a black militant. He claims no particular biased towards blacks or against whites. The term "Oreo" fits perfectly with his persona- while he appears black, he is in fact 50% white. While his social circle may be predominantly black, his politics includes all races.
    And like any Oreo cookie eaten as intended, once you chew it- it all mixes together; just how he sees himself. The irony is most people segregate the Oreo- choosing to first separate then eat the white filling then eat or dunk the chocolate cookies; the way most people see him.

    July 14, 2008 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  24. Sal in Phoenix

    I'm getting sick & tired of everybody getting offended by everything everyone says with regards to blacks..Were the people so offended black or white?..did viewers call in or e-mail or was it the pundits that were so offended?..they are always trying to make the news instead of just reporting it..Is this what we have to look forward to if Obama becomes president?..This is rediculous!

    July 14, 2008 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  25. Tony

    Please can someone answer one questions do we still have freedom of speech?

    July 14, 2008 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
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