September 5th, 2008
03:35 PM ET
2 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. Don

    McCain is trying hard to inject race into the whole race, but Obama did not take the bait.

    September 5, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  2. Obama, the next president

    Just because Barack and Michelle Obama have graduated from the best schools in the country doesn't make them uppity, it means they have brains unlike the republican party.

    September 5, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  3. Reality

    I honestly had no idea "uppity" was a racist insult. Another word destroyed by political correctness perhaps? Can I still say "snob?" Obama is a spoiled snob. Is that OK to say?

    September 5, 2008 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  4. Cynthia

    Well, somebody finally said it in the way that they consciously meant it! God forbid that a person of color should exhibit confidence and charisma as any other presidential candidate naturally does. For months, Republicans have been hiding behind those commercials using politically correct adgectives such as "'arrogant and elite celebrity," but what what many of us heard at home was their projection of the message, "You should remember your place "boy" because as we see it, "you're getting a little too uppity." Come on Westmoreland, any person over the age of forty remembers what that word means in this country. And in many white circles (such as my own family), it was and still is used. It's 2008, and my seventy year-old parents use the word "colored!" We still have a long way to go with perceptions of what race "really is" in this country. He is the best man for the job....Obama/Biden 2008!

    September 5, 2008 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  5. lil

    uppity is a word that was used to decribe black people when I was
    growing up but it was phrased uppity n-word and I am sure this
    person knew this because he is a lot older than I am.
    African American take great offense to it.
    Elitist is the same in Africian American community.
    I knew it wouldnt be long before someone got the nerve to use it,(the word uppity).

    September 5, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  6. Roxanne J, SC

    Everyone needs to stop and acknowledge the elephant in the room. Race is a real issue in this country and to all of the people who think that because "I have black friends" the race issue in America is not an issue then they need to wake up. As for the idiots that constantly call Barack "elitist", stop it. He didn't go to Harvard on his daddy's money or his rich wife's money. He earned it through studious, hard work and thank God for affirmative action otherwise he would never have gotten in to such a prestigious university regardless of how talented he was.

    When an African-American makes pulls himself up and makes something of himself then he is called elitest. Its just another ploy by those that would want to keep minorities in "their place" and not aspire to anything greater.

    Obama/Biden 08'

    September 5, 2008 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  7. texas country first

    some hollywood stars or singers like madonna are uppity.

    September 5, 2008 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  8. TROY

    This man grew up in the south he knew exactly what he was saying just blike a republican to cowardly to stand by anything they say.

    September 5, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  9. UNDECIDED CLINTON VOTER

    PALIN STOOD ON STAGE AND REPEATED THE SAME LIES AND SMEARS BY THE REPUBLICAN CAMPAIGN.

    WE NEED SOMEBODY WITH SOME BACKBONE. I AM VOTING FOR THE DEMOCRATS.

    SHAME ON YOU PALIN!!

    September 5, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  10. lena/dallas

    Was the Congressman calling him uppity because he is educated and pronounce his words according to the english language. I don't get it.....WAKE UP WESTMORELAMD!

    September 5, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  11. Patrick, Fairfield, CA

    There has been some change in America – when was the last time you ever heard a black man, Obama, being called uppity and elitist and a white man, Biden, being just an ordinary get your hands dirty kind of guy – then have the two of them be on the same Presidential ticket together?

    A change has come; and it has come in a mysterious way. A full revolutionary one has yet to come – but will on November 4 2008.

    Go Obama/Biden...

    September 5, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  12. al in memphis

    He is a representative from the south - don't tell me you did not know what it meant. When was the last time he referred to Chaney as uppity?
    Uppity, elitist people like the solical fanfare and notority - they don't walk away from the money of Wall Street to become community organizers. I don't favor arrogant people, but too many voters seem to want leaders they can laugh at instead of people with intelligence and confidence.

    September 5, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  13. Shaker

    You go Jason!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    IMPEACH BABY BUSH NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    September 5, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  14. Brad

    Sarah Palin reminds me of the movie Fargo !

    September 5, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  15. NObama

    Uppity - nevery in my life have I heard anyone suggest that uppity is racial. Whoever says it is undoubtedly a racist. I'll continue to use the word. Tom Brokaw is uppity. Paris Hilton is uppity. Candy Crowley is uppity. Uppity. UPPity. UPPITY. The 'thought police' are at it again. If NObama wins, this nation will not survive.

    September 5, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  16. craig

    Please! This is all about race. White people think that blacks should not aspire to be anything. If they do they are thought of as uppity, not knowing ones place.

    Newsflash! Race matters people. If it did'nt this would be a non-story. Please stop pretending that we are all treated the same in this country. This is what troubles me even more than racism itself.

    September 5, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  17. ali

    after watching Obama's accomplishments being belittled and disrespected and laughed at in front a mostly White audience, I don't believe for a minute this man didn't know what he was implying with that statement.

    September 5, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  18. Shari, NY

    This story is bringing out the true COLORS of those who are voting. All that talk about him being arrogant, knowing nothing, etc., is just a camouflage for their hatred. God will take Sen. Obama safely to the WHITE HOUSE.

    September 5, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  19. AtlantaGal

    Any Southerner knows exactly what it means to call a black person "uppity."

    September 5, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  20. slc in ny

    African Americans, once they obtained a higher education as told by society which would enable them to succeed were then called "uppity" by some other less educated blacks and racist whites when they displayed their knowledge.
    They are not elitist nor uppity...they are well educated Americans who came from meeger beginnings and succeeded. We all should be proud of them for they have done what America says that Blacks should do in order to succeed.
    No puns intended but it is better than an economics degree after attending 6 colleges. It just shows you what a white American can do with so much less education than a black American. Black Americans have always had to be two or three times better than the white Americans for the same position.

    Go Obama/Bidenn '08

    September 5, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  21. trudy

    i woulg like to know wy you dont want the truths ? how People feel ? thats wy the write in ?thank you

    September 5, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  22. Careful now..

    nobody can pick on "the one"! Uppity is used on many different kinds of people from different races.

    You whiners just need to knock it off and let your candidate play in the big leagues. A better word for Obama would have been arrogant.

    September 5, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  23. Obama 08: 60, white, female.

    Will CNN ever post Biden's response to Palin's attacks? Or is it better for ratings to have these inane postings inferring that the oBama campaign accused anyone about racism. It is the media that brought this up.

    When is CNN going to demand that Palin speaks one on one with the press? or are they just going to repeat her sarcastic, inaccurate comments until Nov. 4th? She has so much to say protected by the podium and talking points. Always the same with a bully: all mouth and insults with nothing behind them.

    September 5, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  24. kel atlanta

    Are you kidding me, Uppity has always been used by whites to describe a black person whom they think has forgotten their place. I don't believe for a moment that he didn't know the history of that kind of language. Like me, he lives in Georgia. He knows better and is not being truthful. I hope no one buys his nonsense and lie about the Dictionary use of the word.

    September 5, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  25. ConsiderThis, FL

    So, if the Obamas are "uppity" what are the McCains – 7 houses and a $313,000 outfit (dress and jewelry) to give a speech in? Filthy Rich Elitists, perhaps?

    September 5, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
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