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. Robert

    Now and Oreo?? What's next? There are always some people that will say or do anything to get in the news, but name calling or trying to insinualte someone is a something they are not, only draws attention to their own prejudice.
    Thank goodness Obama stays above this type of garbage talk.

    July 14, 2008 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  2. bill horton

    Totally disgusting. The fact that Jesse's own son verbalized his disgust over jesse's comments speaks volumes. All too often people like this speaker try to eppeal to the negative side of things. And what label is deserving of people who like to stir things up by using such derogatory commentary?

    July 14, 2008 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  3. Mrs. Green

    What does it mean to be White on the inside?

    July 14, 2008 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  4. Ms. RDS

    This whole notion of acting "black" is ridiculous. I didn't know it was a way that I was supposed to act. I guess I'm an Oreo too because I go to work, church, spend time with my family, don't have any kids out of wedlock, graduated from college, pay my bills on time, and am not on welfare. These stereotypes are ridiculous and the fact that some people still believe that all blacks are sitting around waiting for a hand out is sad. I laugh at these people b/c they don't know any better.

    July 14, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  5. Peter E

    He is absolutely right. Obama doesn't have any American slave ancestors and contributed nothing to the Civil Rights movement. He's exploiting race for political pruposes, guilting people into voting for him, intimidating them with accusations of 'racism.' It's disgusting!

    July 14, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  6. tim

    The old tired insults of slave masters have woken up. Just when you think a black men has made some progress.........

    July 14, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  7. TexasTim

    McLaughkin needs to go. Who can watch him anymore?
    He is always been intolerant and barely lucid, his style is well..what style? He is so completely irrelevant and outdated. Can't they hire someone younger than 150 to lead a discussion?

    July 14, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  8. Tam/Stone Mountain

    As an African American woman I am so sick of all of this. If Obama is President is this what we will have to deal with. "He said this, He said that". Stop being so sensitive America!!! Obama's team need to stop using this stuff and just run a campaign because this is getting old. You used this mess again the Clintons but I do not think it will work this time.

    I always thought Hillary would have been the best choice, now I know she would have been.

    July 14, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  9. Ridiculous

    Absolutely ridiculous. Stupid old fart.

    America needs to move beyond all this black and white stuff. I tell you–I will take a hell of a lot of black people over many of the white people in this country any day.

    And I am a white American from one of the whitest states–vermont–and one of the whitest county's in the union.

    You know what, maybe Michelle Obama is right–I thought i was proud for the first time of my country, but I'm not. We do so much that is insulting every day that it's unbelieveable.

    July 14, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  10. Mike O

    This hyper-sensitivity is laughable in the face of what Condi Rice has faced. The coarsening of dialog over the last decade or so cuts both ways, folks; if you can't take the New Yorker/'Oreo' heat, stay out of the kitchen.

    This hyper-sensitivity will only call into question the 'toughness' issue. If Obama would answer this stuff more along the lines of how McCain answered the age issue (humor on SNL and his regular summer Grand Canyon hike with his sons), he'd be a lot better off.

    It just shows he's the first post racial candidate; he'll need to take the same garbage as everyone else.

    July 14, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  11. Concerned Citizen

    The key word in all of this hoorahh is "STEREOTYPICAL" and if you look at the whole of the black community,,,,, from a distance,,,, like at the back of the auditorium,,, at the crowd,,,,,, you won't even find those black fathers in the congregation,,, My point,,, these absentee fathers become invisible to the observer of the whole issue,,,, There are plenty of absentee fathers from all the races,,,,, but the issue only seems to be omnipitnent in the black community........

    July 14, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  12. Frank Lee

    The pasty old white boy stepped in it this time. Keep playing the race cards, you right -wing fools. After Nov 4th you'll be singing a different tune.

    (Come to think of it, he's about McCains age, isn't he?)

    July 14, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  13. ree not a racist

    You said it Former HC Girl.

    I am sick to death of having to watch everything I say. Since Obama started running, it seems everyday there is something about race. Can't say black hole, white cake or chocolate cake. What's next? Can't say I have on a black dress? Give me a break!!!

    If you don't support Obama, you are racist, or old, or stupid, or a Sen. Clinton supporter. Remember we live in the US of A and can vote for whom ever we want.

    We are not sheep, we know how to think for ourselves. Some of us find the Obama's lacking. We don't think he is a "rock star" or "a god"

    July 14, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  14. Linda

    I think when you read the entire exchange it McLaughlin's (even though I am not a fan) comments can not really be seen as offensive. He was asking a question and even made mention of how and when this term is used. I think in fact that the question raised about Jackson deserves much attention. It can also be argued of course that Obama is not just acting "white" (whatever that may mean) he is actually half white, and was raised by white folks when his African-American father abandoned ship. If race were the sole consideration of this election Obama would get my vote simply because I think he must understand it better than most of it. I am thinking if he can forgive Jackson's outrageous comment he is not even batting an eye at this one.

    July 14, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  15. IAMWMD

    Man, these republican rednecks are getting out of control with their comments. At least they can no longer hide their ture colors.

    Obama 08

    July 14, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  16. My View

    I am a white man and I find the use of this term to be very derrogatory and racist. There is just no way around it. John should be ashamed of himself, I would expext better from him.

    Time for a big apology

    July 14, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  17. Jody Monroe

    "Oreo" does not refer to a bi-racial person. It is supposed to refer to a Black person who tries to deny their culture by acting white.

    Fortunately, Obama does not try to act "White". He is a confident person, who is proud of his bi-racial culture, although as an adult he apparently identifies more with the Black culture.

    He is authentic and sincere and obviously has a deep desire to see AMERICA as a better place for ALL races. The fact that his message resonates across colors just shows he is a genius.

    July 14, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  18. Tom

    What a ridiculous non-statement to be offended about. Ignorant, knee jerk reactionists bound and determined to be upset about something, anything, so they ignore the context and frame in which the statement was made.

    Get over yourselves.

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

    McLaughlin's error was in trying to get into the mind of Jesse Jackson. So places are best left unexplored...

    July 14, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  20. Jennifer - American in Canada

    If you are openminded you are an OREA.......Well! Well! Such stereotyping is offensive. Would anyone call Bill Clinton who appealed to Blacks a Reverse OREA? We have to stop this name calling................please.

    July 14, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  21. Peter E

    I am tired of the Obama campaign's tactics of intimidation 'If you disagree with Obama then you're a racist.' It is just as disgusting as Bush's campaign from '04 'If you're not with us, then you're with the terrorists.'

    July 14, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  22. Eric


    He doesnt have to "try" to show he is black, as no other African American has to. Also, we should all be asking ourselves that question on certain topics. I personally wouldnt feel bad if he did have this question in mind. SO, i ask you, why dont we step up?

    P.S. – I too am an African American.

    BTW, there is no such thing as acting black or white, you are either civilized or not, that does not go with any necessary race until the twisted media and society gives their input.

    July 14, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  23. yay of PA

    Black white yellow green orange multicolor whatever. I just want someone w/ a level head and sound judgement in the Oval Office who can surround him/herself with the right people for the job.

    This report is making me hungry for milk and cookies.

    And no McLaughlin, you can't have any cookies.

    July 14, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  24. Herman in LA

    We need a zero tolerance law on racisms of any kind and if your caught saying it or doing it your fined or put in jail this has to stop America u here me.

    Cnn I know you won't post this cus the news media would not have any news...

    July 14, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  25. bill

    The Oreo comment was completely harmless. It was obvious what the moderator, Mr. McLaughlin, was saying. Blacks need to get over their hyper-sensitivity to the slightest remarks. I have much bigger problems with Obama.

    July 14, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
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