September 5th, 2008
03:35 PM ET
3 years ago

Congressman says he didn't know 'uppity' has racial overtones

A Georgia congressman told a Capitol Hill newspaper he thought the the Obamas were 'uppity.'
A Georgia congressman told a Capitol Hill newspaper he thought the the Obamas were 'uppity.'

(CNN) – Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland was unaware a word he used to describe Barack and Michelle Obama on Thursday carries racial overtones, a spokesman for the congressman told CNN.

Westmoreland, who represents Georgia's third district, described the Obamas as "uppity" when asked by reporters in Washington to compare Repubican vice presidential canidate Sarah Palin with the wife of the Democratic presidential candidate.

“Just from what little I’ve seen of her and Mr. Obama, Sen. Obama, they’re a member of an elitist-class individual that thinks that they’re uppity,” Westmoreland said, according to the Capitol Hill Newspaper the Hill.

Westmoreland's spokesman, Brian Robinson, insisted the congressman did not know the word has been used with a racially derogatory intent against African-Americans.

"When describing the Obamas as part of an elite class, Congressman Westmoreland also used a synonym for elitist: uppity. He was using the dictionary definition of the word, which is having 'an inflated self-esteem' or 'snobbish.' He stands by that characterization and thinks it accurately describes the Democratic nominee. He was unaware that the word had racial overtones and he had absolutely no intention of using a word that can be considered offensive," Robinson said.

Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for Obama's campaign, would not comment to CNN, but told The Hill, " “Sounds like Rep. Westmoreland should be careful throwing stones from his candidate’s eight glass houses."

Robinson said it is important to note the Obama campaign did not note the racial overtones of the word in its response.

"Congressman Westmoreland and Senator Obama may not agree on much, but at least they can agree that Congressman Westmoreland was not referring to race," Robinson said.

soundoff (156 Responses)
  1. Arielle Yanaba

    Are you kidding me? You Republicans make me sick...what happend to all the the american people don't know the obama's they have to prove themselves, and then you embrace Sarah Palin which no one knows, oh wait she's white so she can be whatever she says she is and we all have to buy it....

    September 5, 2008 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  2. Tom

    Oh, now stop it! I am a huge Obama supporter, but I cannot stand by and let politicians of any stripe re-define the English language! How can you possibly believe Rep Westmoreland meant anything racial when she used that word??

    Obama supporters, don't buy into this crap, we don't need it to win. If it bothers a huge progressive like me, think how an undecided voter would feel! Let's leave the gotcha games to the Republicans We should be above all that.

    September 5, 2008 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  3. mama4obama

    I cannot for the life of me see how anyone can say that Obama is "uppity or elitest" at all. The guy is an average joe who worked his butt off to get where he is. He wants to ensure that every American has that opportunity, but they are slipping further and further from reach every single time we vote someone like Bush or McCain into office. Someone should have dealt with the oil crisis 30+ years ago, yet nothing was done.

    Barack Obama is a down to earth guy who has dedicated his life to serving the people of this country...and Michelle has been there right along side. Give credit where credit is due even if you are on the other side politically!!!

    September 5, 2008 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  4. Michaela

    OH right .. he lives in Georgia and doesn' t know "uppity" has racial overtones ? So, he's saying he is stupid ? Give me a break ! If anyone says anything about poor little pit bull Sarah it's sexist ? We'll all have to start claiming stupidity as our reason .

    September 5, 2008 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  5. Mike

    So what is the racial overtone? I never knew the word uppity had racial overtones either. CNN really needs to stop reporting every little detail someone might say. This is so NOT newsworthy!

    September 5, 2008 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  6. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

    Raised by a single mom, worked his butt off in school, did 3 years as a community organizer in an impoverished, hard-hit area and has worked for the common good ever since... yeah, Obama certainly is "uppity".
    The nerve of some people...

    September 5, 2008 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  7. Capt. Smash, Salt Lake City, Utah

    Give me a break he should resign.

    September 5, 2008 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  8. Huh!!!!!!

    He didn't know that? That is a lie.

    September 5, 2008 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  9. Leta

    Uppity maybe half of em'

    September 5, 2008 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  10. Michaela

    I'd rather be uppity than stupid .

    September 5, 2008 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  11. Rhea

    What do you expect. If you watched the RNC then you already know what king of people support it. You had people wearing pens such as "angry redneck!",(according to CNN), What the heck is that? Look at the faces of the attendees at the DNC and then the RNC. Change will happen wihen the republicans are able to reach a more diverse audience. It was uncomfortable just watching it.

    September 5, 2008 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  12. jenkins

    He should just refer to Obama as the Community Organizer for now on since that's been his main career for all these years.

    September 5, 2008 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  13. wilfred

    Give me a break "UPPITY" racial???
    Ossama Hussein Obama , what a cry baby.
    All racisim all the time if you don't agree with him or make a comment against him. WAH WAH WAH

    September 5, 2008 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  14. Gina

    Ok I think I've heard it all! "Uppity" has racial overtones? WHAT??? Since when does it have racial overtones? If so, what is the racial overtone? I think I am not going to go on this ticker anymore because way too much information is reported about the stupidist things.

    September 5, 2008 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  15. dennis from chicago

    don't fret...the late night talk hosts have a hard time of it too.. obama is the only ONE allowed to talk about race. .... next time just say ' he is an elitist ' or pompous......or a man who prefers wedgewood blue.....OR YOU CAN JUST SAY 'THE ONE'

    September 5, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  16. Louis

    The old "hiding behind the dictionary" excuse. I have a word for Congressman Westmoreland to look up–"moron".

    September 5, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  17. victor,nj

    SHOWS HOW IGNORANT A MAJORITY OF REPUBLICANS ARE. I GUESS HAVING GRADUTED FROM HARVAD LAW, COMPARED TO THE BACHELOR DERGREE IN JOURNALISM THAT PALIN HAS IS BEING ELITIST. I GUESS EVERY ONE THAT HAS 17 YEAR OLD DAUGHTERS THAT HER PREPARING TO GO TO COLLEGE AS OPPOSED TO GETTING PREGNANT ARE ELITIST. WHAT A FOOL.

    September 5, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  18. Katie - Atlanta

    Since he knows (now) that "uppity" is considered a racial overtone in the Black community, why is he still determined to use it? I find it surprising that any native Southerner has no idea what that term is used for.

    September 5, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  19. carol

    Can we have the picture of Congressman rather than Obamas!

    September 5, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  20. victor,nj

    HELLO MY FELLOW BLOGGERS, BY READING SOME OF THE COMMENTS LATELY I AM HAPPY THAT A MAJORITY YOU ARE THE WELL INFORMED INDIVIDUALS WHO ARE NOT FALLING FOR THE BS THAT REPUBLICANS ARE TRYING TO FEED US. THE REPUBS ARE TRYING TO MAKE THIS ELECTION ABOUT PATRIOTISM, ABORTION, SEXISM AND FEAR, WHILE IGNORING THE PREDICAMENT THE NATION IS IN. HOWEVER LETS NOT IGNORED THAT A MAJORITY OF VOTERS ARE EASILY MISGUIDED BY FOXNEWS, RUSH LIMBAUGH, AND SEAN HANNITY. I HUGE EVERY ONE TO EDUCATE YOUR NEIGBHORS, FRIENDS, FAMILY MEMBERS ON ACTUAL FACTS. THIS ELECTION IS TOO IMPORTANT ESPECIALLY AFTER WATCH THE STAND UP ROUTINE THE REPUBS CALL A CONVENTION.

    September 5, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  21. What a shocker

    Republicans are usually a party of such racial sensitivity

    September 5, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  22. mou

    Georgian Republican? He meant "uppity" in the ususal. I am hoping like hell Obama wins. We are in for some serious disenchantment if he doesn't.

    September 5, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  23. Steve

    There are words you can't use when referring to various races or one of the genders. First, it's not polite, and second, as a public figure, it can call everything else you do or say into question. This is nothing new. Bill Clinton, who had been an advocate of African Americans to the point he was jokingly referred to as "America's First Black President' made some remarks during the Democratic primary that were construed as vaguely racist. He probably didn't mean them that way, but that's what happened. From then on, he was skewered by the press, and everything else he said was under the microscope.

    As a public figure Westmoreland must be very aware of what kind of power his words have. To be a politician from Georgia, who claims to not know what overtones "uppity" has, has one of two interpretations. Either Westmoreland thinks we're all idiots, or he himself is an idiot.

    September 5, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  24. NEVER OBAMA

    Remember, only obama can play the race card.

    September 5, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  25. Cindy

    Why get into these stupid ad hominem attacks in the first place, Congressman? None of this has anything to do with doing the job.

    And if you're gonna compare people, it should be Palin vs Biden. Or Michelle vs Cindy.

    September 5, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
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