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. ATLian

    More and more the real America is emerging. I am not surprised.

    July 14, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  2. adam

    oh and i agree with nikki above

    July 14, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  3. brayo

    omg!!! i knew he was an evil grey man!

    July 14, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  4. Jaime in Texas

    What happened to freedom of speech? Do you see what Obama has done to America? Everyone has to watch what they say now. We can't express ourselves or our beliefs.

    July 14, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  5. Charles

    This isn't a big deal.

    July 14, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  6. Riley In The Nations Bible Belt

    Rupublicans...do yourself a favor and stop the foot-in-the-mouth remarks so this can be a somewhat close race by November!

    Obama's lead is growing, 8 points right now according to the Poll of Polls, after all the screw ups the GOP has made in the past 7 1/2 years, you'd think that they'd try to look as squeky clean as possible, but I guess not!

    As Americans, we're tired of being lied to (ex. Evironmental Censorship, The War, The "Mental" Recession), and we're also tired of propaganda and lies covered up by the name "Straight Talk Express"!

    We know when you say that you support "Business Owners" what you really mean is that you support Big Business and Capitol Gain!

    We're sick of the GOP fighting to make the wealthiest 2% richer, and we're sick of seeing people dying in an unnecessary war.

    Vote For Hope

    Vote For A Change

    Vote For A Chance

    Vote For Obama

    Obama '08

    July 14, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  7. tillzen

    Earth to Jesse / Earth to Bernie Mac/ Earth to the next idiot who does not think before they speak ... What we are trying to do here is impossibly difficult. To undo 8 years of rot. To once again lead instead of following the planet. To succeed in this, we must be better than our opposition; better than the status quo. We must prepare ourselves for nothing less than cultural war against those who dismiss Barack for his blackness, his whiteness, his brain, and his reach. Jackals abound, and if you give Rush, or his lessors, the raw materials of division or diversion, we will have wasted this golden opportunity to step us as a nation. If you are not helping us, you are hurting us. As a nation we need more. We have seen an LCD president, and have earned the right to offer more. I hope that Barack Obama is this man. Let him have the opportunity, and if you can't step up with us, then for God's sake get out of his way.

    July 14, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  8. Steve in CT

    Since the begining of the Mayflower days groups of people have needed to become stronger in part by being abused. That's what made the American tough. That's what made the US the superpower it is today. Being tough. Lately we've been softened by polital correctness to the point we're becoming a nation of whiners, wimps and cry babies. Toughen up America or we'll soon be overtaken by those becoming tougher while we degress. Those who endured the hardening by fire have gone on to proove their rights to self pride. They rose up through the social ladder like Rocky Balboa running up the stairs to raise his fists in triumph. The wops became respected leaders called Italian AMERICANS as the micks became respected leaders called Irish AMERICANS. Nobody respects a whiner. Grow up.

    July 14, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  9. Macarena

    The Obama campaign is setting race relations back 50 years in this country.


    The fact that democrats have to use race-baiting in every campaign is even more sad.

    July 14, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  10. TheTruthHurts

    Just stupid. When it's so easy to NOT make such comments, you really have to ask why such "professionals" continue to do so.

    Is it the end of the world? Of course not. Still I think I ask a worthwhile question.

    July 14, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  11. ProundToBeDemocrat

    This comment is a reflection of the racist conservative republicans. People we need to destroy this people is we are going to reclaim our county.

    July 14, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  12. DonnieJ

    Way to go, McLaughlin. "Bye Bye!"

    July 14, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  13. Cheryl (Retired Vets for Obama)

    WOW! I am so sick of this stupid racism in American, can't we all just band together to get this country back on track. The rest of the world is laughing at how stupid we are on race issues.. ONLY IN AMERICA.....

    July 14, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  14. Mike, Syracuse NY

    As Bill Maher would say, new rule: Whatever blacks say about blacks, whites can say about blacks. That includes Chris Rock and Bernie Mac. Enough with the double standards already. Why can Bernie Mac make a ho joke and not Don Imus?

    Obama, too black? Too white? Who cares? Whatever his color, he's too unqualified.

    July 14, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  15. Barry IL

    What is wrong with just being an American and criticize all sides for our weakness? According to Jackson and McLaughling, if you're are African American, you are supposed to cover up and deny what goes inside the community. It's very much uncalled for to hear from some of our elders that we are only supposed to reflect on the old divisions, not as citizens. Obama transcends the old divisions. He is courageous enough to tell it as it is, regarding dead-beat fathers.

    Actually, Obama did not go far enough. There is some kind of "civil war" in African American community. There are so many unnecessary killings and abuses within the community that the community needs to step up and organize in order to make peace. External help from the Government alone cannot solve the deeply entrenched problems unless the community effectively take part, being responsible as individuals and collectively as a community.

    July 14, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  16. Pel

    What a statement! What a statement! I don't Senator is not an OREO, However, he has modified his stance on several position. The same can be said for Senator McCain.

    July 14, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  17. DeMarco

    So.... being well spoken, having a successful life, and becoming equipped to run for Office makes you a white man on the inside?

    What are qualities of black people, then? Or hispanics? or asians?


    July 14, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  18. Dan in Memphis

    I don't personally think the old man meant anything slanderous with the comment, but this is a situation where perception is much more important that reality. It only takes the perception of racism to create a firestorm. A seasoned veteran of his industry knows this and should take caution not to open himself up to this.

    My question is had he used a less offensive term, would the reaction have been the same?

    I am not sure there is an exact term, "uncle tom". perhaps, although that is not quite the same and might still be offensive. So, had he just explained that he thought Obama was a black man catering to the white community, would it have been perceived the same way by the general public, media and activists?

    July 14, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  19. M. O'Brien

    A Democrat for John McCain? That's an oxymoron. Come to think of it, so the idea of John McCain as President.

    As for McLaughlin – just another old, rich white guy who is past his prime and completely out of touch – just like John McCain.

    July 14, 2008 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  20. jack

    time and time again, Obama shows his flip-flop and his insincerity.

    I will not trust his words at the campaign, rather I would tend to believe his words before.

    July 14, 2008 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  21. mike

    Ok so I am a white guy and to follow his thinking it would go like this." As a leader of white people I think we need more white men running out on their white children." Ya that is how I would not be talking down to whites-blacks- asians you name the race. Ya and no one has called for him to step down from operation push!! Wonder why????

    July 14, 2008 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  22. carlo

    Enough is enough and too much stinks. All of these racially charged epithets and satires being thrown at Obama are no coincidence. It's just disgusting. What's more disgusting is the posters on here who hide behind their screen names like the cowards they are and say whatever they think, no matter how vile. For all of you so called "conservatives", God judges everything, including what we say and think, even behind closed doors or in this case, screen names.

    Oh, and BTW, as far as Obama being the most inexperienced nominee ever, check out Lincoln's resume. Heck, Bill Clinton had eight years of experience as a governor of Arkansas! Hillary had a little more U.S. Senate experience than Obama, and he was a state senator before he was a U.S. senator (the only black one, I might add). Just say you won't vote for him (especially if you're a Democrat) because you're racist and move on. It's better that way.

    July 14, 2008 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  23. Kathy

    I also watched the show, and McLaughlin put his use of the term "oreo" in context...he explained how it has been used BY blacks to describe other blacks.

    You Obamabots are so overly sensitive to anything you perceive as negative about your candidate - and you throw out the RACISM label with abandon. You all come across as IDIOTS!

    July 14, 2008 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  24. Laura

    People like Jesse Jackson and John McLaughlin are the people that cant seem to accept the fact that the country is growing and changing without them. theyre grasping at straws for the last of the spotlight that they'll ever see.

    i think i speak for many young people in saying that what they have to say about politics no longer matters to us, and we can think for ourselves.

    July 14, 2008 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  25. Blayze Kohime

    Why do people insist on labels? They distract from the real issues and even his opponent McCain rejects this sort of bigotry.

    July 14, 2008 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
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