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. Sylvia

    His intention was not to call Obama an Oreo but to convey a perception of him by others. I would not venture to call McLaughlin ignorant or racist, but he's of a different era with different sensibilities. A time when you didn't have to be afraid to talk about your understanding of controversial issues even if you have good intentions.

    July 14, 2008 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  2. Independent-woman-4-Obama

    Some of the comments on this blog are outright ...... sick. "If the shoe fits"? One of the reasons so many Americans have 'tuned-out' of politics is because of the hate-and-fear-mongering. We are SICK OF ALL THE NAME CALLING........ AND THE PEOPLE WHO THINK 'ANYTHING GOES' IS FINE. What about respect? What about decency? WHAT ABOUT INTELLIGENCE?

    The same people saying that its okay to call a man who is both black & white an oreo, found THE COMMENTS BY REV. WRIGHT RACIST! You can't have it both ways, folks.

    McLaughlin must be getting senile and his TRUE COLORS are showing! Its interesting how people can be so offensive ....... and as long as they are WHITE they can get away with it....... but anyone of color is crucified!

    For those who think that we live in a color-blind society, here's proof that NO........ we are racist.



    July 14, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  3. Joy

    Some whites can be so evil and narrow minded!

    July 14, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  4. Mike

    Did anyone actually read the quote? McLaughlin didn't call Obama an Oreo himself in the first quote, he said Obama fit a stereotype that other African Americans would have once called an Oreo (and he's right – that term is/was more often used by other African Americans than it was by caucasians). In the second quote he used the term to illustrate Jesse Jackson's views, not his own. Is there anyone that can honestly deny Jesse Jackson is more racially biased and bigoted than most of the people he calls foul against? I don't doubt for a moment that Jesse Jackson is taking Obama's success personally, not just because Obama is half-white, but because Obama is willing to be critical of African American society and call out problems that Jesse Jackson would much rather blame on other people. And -that- is what Jesse is best at – blaming other people for his problems and the difficulties faced by African American society. Maybe if Jesse Jackson actually took some ownership for those difficulties then he could start to effect a positive change.

    July 14, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  5. Peter Michael

    Oreo? I haven't heard that since I was in elementary school.

    July 14, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  6. Steve, Madison WI

    These over-the-hill bigots need to be gone from this planet. When people finally realize a person's race, creed, gender or sexual orientation do not dictate their worth, then the world has a chance.

    It is refreshing to see my kids who are literally blind to a person's race, etc. My son, for example, honestly can't recall many times whether a new acquantance was black, hispanic, or whatever....he does recall whether they were funny, happy, mean, etc........

    So maybe there is hope (if we survive the next 20 years until his generation is in charge).

    July 14, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  7. Peter (CA)

    McLaughlin has been an old fool for some time. Why is this sort of slip any surprise? Racism is unfortuantely a very real part of life in this country and the right wing has used it to its advantage for a long time. Can't be surprised it is coming out in this campaign.

    It would be nice if we could have a real national discussion and grow up. But, looking at the comments on this topic, I am not that encouraged.

    July 14, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  8. ET

    This helps Obama with moderates, like me, who see it as confirmation that Obama will blaze a new path through the mire of race-related issues. We need a leader who can be intellectually honest about all our problems, including ones where white politicians have been too timid to tread

    July 14, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |

    It all depends on context and tonal inflection. He might have helped bring light to a valid point.

    There is an issue with American society thinking that the DNA recipe for the "good" black man ... the Oreo ... and the "bad, threatening, low achieving" black man .... are different.

    It is not the amount of non-American black blood that determines our station in life. Love our blackness America ... that's where our strength comes from.

    July 14, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  10. Jim Schimmer

    People will talk.


    July 14, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  11. Whining Tommy Hussein in St. Louis

    All it takes is an African-American actually being a viable candidate for the presidency, to bring all the racist freaks out of the woodwork. In fairness, John McLaughlin may not have had bad intentions behind what he was saying, but Barack Obama has taken a lot of garbage this campaign season simply because he looks different and has a "funny" name. Nobody bugs John McCain about wearing a stupid flag pin that is probably made in China anyway, or the possibility that he may be a secret Muslim. Nobody gives a rip about McCain's pastor, I don't care what he says on any subject. Hagee was never held against him the way Wright and Pfleger are held against Obama. It's fine if you don't want to bother McCain about all these things, but then let's hold everybody to the same standards, shall we?

    I guess some of us have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st Century.

    July 14, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  12. Tara, Elmira NY

    I am shocked at the level of racism that is going on with this campaign. Its seems like Barack is being plummeted from every side while McCain gets a free ride through this election is it shameful. I am all about critisizm and I think that Barack should be critisized with out people being called racist, but that is no excuse to be racisist.

    July 14, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  13. Nia - AZ by way of MN

    What is this open season on Obama this week...DANG!! John Maclaughphlin knows better. I think he is trying to say something shocking to get ratings, unfortunatly at the expense of Obama.

    July 14, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  14. ben

    In the wholed frame of things; this old guy is no longer relevant just like Jessie Jackson. They're both hung up on the past. We can get along without them.

    July 14, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  15. Peter E

    I notice once again that CNN places more emphasis on these stories, trying to depict Obama as somekind of victim whom we owe our votes to, (because if we don't vote for him we're automatically labeled 'racist') instead of dealing with his stance on issues or his record in the senate.

    July 14, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  16. Dennis Long

    McLaughlin should be fired!

    July 14, 2008 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  17. KEN

    gee i have heard the word oreo all my 40 years and its not as negative as some people think it is. he's half black half white. So? i think the New Yorker's front page should cause a much greater outrage...THAT HURTS. for every jew, latino, gay, asian and african american who have felt hatred...that cover is just horrible and way over the top. barack obama..like mlk expressed his views that all men are created equal and to stop the dialogue of hate and bias and sterotyping..so the new yorker condones this kind of message to invoke more bitterness in a country where we need more tolerance.

    July 14, 2008 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  18. Tara, Elmira NY

    1st He's not black enough, then he's too black and radical, now he is not black enough. America is having what I think is a racial nervous breakdown. The thought of a black man being president is driving people into hysteria. I thought we had come farther then this.

    July 14, 2008 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  19. MIT Student

    McLaughlin is indeed an old, old man. However, not as old as McCain.

    July 14, 2008 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  20. Jim

    If Mr. Obama can help us to overcome our national challenges, then I'm going to be pleased to have him as our president.

    Think, people - it is the only thing that separates us from other animals. And it is, apparently, the only thing that separates intelligent people from idiots like John McCain.

    – Jim


    July 14, 2008 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  21. Linda31

    It is amazing to see all the hatred and racism that is being brought to the surface. Obama is Obama and he doesn't have to be anything but. To call someone an Oreo is basically saying that as a black person he is not good enough and is trying to be like a white person. I hope and pray that if nothing else, that this election highlights the fact that black people are not one dimensional just like every other race. People are different, deal with it!

    July 14, 2008 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  22. gl

    I notice it is the very old white people that are the most racist. The young whites mostly younger then 40 are not racist and alot of them see beyond race. The younger American of all race what change and this racist to stop, one of the main reason I believe Obama will be our next President becasue some one like him can help fix this racist County image!

    July 14, 2008 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  23. E for Obama

    McLaughin's, perception of why Jackson made those comments towards Obama is COMPLETELY OFF. 1st of all the term "Oreo" refers to a black man who purposely acts a certain way inorder to please his white counterparts. This in no way describes Obama. Obama has the right to lecture black man (or any man) on their fatherly duties because – A. he is a father & B. his father left him at an early age.


    Lets all see this for what it is, McLaughin pandering to the ignorant.

    July 14, 2008 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  24. let's be real

    Poor choice of words. Stupidity and lack of good judgement are to blame. However, in ways it's true... and that's something most Americans aren't realizing.

    July 14, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  25. Things that make you go hmmmmm

    what is femiliar about this man? Old, White and Scared of change. Real people know just because a White man will not be President it doesn't mean ALL white people are going to lose their jobs. That is what you get for depending on being White to get you and keep you ahead.

    July 14, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
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