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

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

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="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. hans

    the man is racist

    September 5, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  2. eric

    And Palin is the only one aloud to talk sexism, dennis? Not even Clinton could say anything about it considering Palin called her a whiner for claiming the same exact thing she is now. How can any old person from the South claim ignorance on the word "uppity"? Obama's campaign doesn't want to bring up race because they're trying to get past idiots like Westmoreland. And, of course, how could Obama even if he wanted to since the right will be so quick to play the race-baiter card while throwing out the sexism card like they're going out of style. Disgusting hypocrits

    September 5, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  3. Dean

    Dennis – so, it's not OK to call someone racist – but perfectly fine to call them sexist?

    Typical Republican attitude – total hypocrisy!

    I will admit, it sure is funny watching McCain hide behind Palin's skirt...

    September 5, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  4. Chad, Wisco

    Since when is uppity racial??? Many people need to get over themselves and back off the PC a little bit. If I say Obama is cool, whoa hold on that's racial, seriously the media needs to get a grip and get over itself. Thankfully this will all be over soon and the media will have to start reporting real news again. HAHA, like that will ever happen.

    September 5, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  5. Charlotte

    Here we go again. Race, Race Race..Obama is, without a doubt, the worst candidate. No resume, empty promises, nice speeches and dark skin. This is typical of the media to play the race and gender card at every turn. Careful with shrill,uppity,boy what else? Now the dictionary is wrong.

    September 5, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  6. nicole r

    The mere fact that he said "from what little" should indicate his statement is absolutely based on zilch.

    September 5, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  7. Trysh, Los Angeles

    Dennis from Chicago....when did Obama talk about race?

    You know, its okay if you just can't fathom a Black man in the white house; its not necessary to make up lies and convince yourself of a good reason to vote against a good man who has good ideas.

    Its your vote; use it how you choose. That's the beauty of America.

    September 5, 2008 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  8. ChaseSadeGirl

    Are you really trying to tell us that a congressman from the south had zero knowledge that the term "uppidy" would be offensive towards black people?

    September 5, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  9. Jim

    Yeah, and that other idiot didn't think "macaca" was a bad thing to call someone either. Where does the GOP find these closet racists anyway? Don't they believe in vetting ANYONE?

    September 5, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  10. Bill Tampa

    Sure he knew what it meant. All southerners, both Black and White know what the word means, when referring to African Americans.
    Republicans don't have a clue what to do or how to handle Barack.
    It's a shame. He's trying to bring the country together. Remember, he's both Black and White.

    September 5, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  11. deetee

    One question - Is that term ever, EVER used to describe a white person?

    September 5, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  12. Jason from Arizona

    Lets see, you own 1 house and your called Elitist but you own 8 your not called Elitist?

    How does anyone believe McCain or the Republican party after the last 8 years of lies, misinformation, misuse of power, failed policies, higher gas prices (which were manipulated by Bush.. lets follow along here.. )..

    Bush mentions a tax-rebate for Americans, gas prices start to climb a cent or 2.. Bush gets his tax-rebates for Americans.. gas prices rise even higher... see where this is going??? Bush mentions that the last checks will go out in middle July.. Gas prices level off in early July then have been dropping a couple of cents ever since the last rebate check went out.. Bush/Cheney/Big Oil (which McCain/Palin are involved in.. Palins husband works for BP) made millions or billions of dollars from the tax rebate checks that went to buy gas.. Not very many Americans spent that check on luxury goods.. Bush was in cahoots with Big Oil to make more $$ for them and Cheney and screw the American public.. Bush thinks he may have pulled the wool over most Americans eyes, but I am sick of this lying, cheating, war criminal of a President, elected by the Supreme Court.. Impeach Bush NOW!!!!!

    September 5, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  13. dym

    I find it very hard to believe that someone from the South was unaware that the term "uppity" has racial overtones.

    September 5, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  14. Madsal

    Why would anyone be surprised at this LIAR's statement that he did not think. He said exactly what he said to try and Be-Little the Obama's like all the rest. Pray for them all. You can fool the people, but not God. He knows the heart.

    September 5, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  15. Jeff

    Shameful. However, I am glad that the Obama campaign didn't make this into a race issue (just as McCain campaign manager, Davis, would have done) for I want to stay focused on the issues. Those unemployment numbers today were really ugly.

    September 5, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  16. Shari, NY

    Forty years from now all this will be history when the demographics of this country will be turned around. ZZZZZZZ

    September 5, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  17. Patty, Big Bear, CA

    Mr. Westmoreland is from Georgia.....he knew exactly what he was saying....I'm from California.....I know what that intimates....another example of "lies and the lying liers that tell them"

    September 5, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  18. Dan

    When has this word been used as derogatory term towards African-Americans? And who called him out on it to begin with if it wasn't the campaign? This article is extremely vague and has no context. I am lost.

    September 5, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  19. wow.... uppity?

    Cindy McCain(’s first night of Republican National Convention outfit)

    Oscar de la Renta dress: $3,000
    Chanel J12 White Ceramic Watch: $4,500
    Three-carat diamond earrings: $280,000
    Four-strand pearl necklace: $11,000-$25,000
    Shoes, designer unknown: $600
    Total: Between $299,100 and $313,100

    September 5, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  20. Mickie in PA

    The media is having a field day with painting every word someone says as racist. Sen. and Mrs. Obama have not said one word about any of it and the media needs fodder for its all-day, all-night coverage. Although, I would say McCain and Cindy are uppity and elite since McCain only got into West Point because he didn't have good enough grades to do anything else and his father used his influence. Sen. Obama had to work to get his education.

    September 5, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  21. robert

    Yuck! That is one ugly picture used for this story. They have that same " I know everything " look on their faces that Oprah throws at us. Yuck yuck yuck yuck

    September 5, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  22. JIMMY

    WOW. a congressman from georgia didn't know what the term 'uppity' refers to. hmmmmm.
    sometimes i really feel sad for my country. not mad......just really, really sad.

    September 5, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  23. Maggie

    Here we go . What's next? Cross burning and people running around in pointed hats? While watching the republican convention, I was reminded of those days.

    That just goes to show you that republicans really need diversity.

    September 5, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  24. Correct

    Yes, uppity is what the white man would call the black man when he tried to read or write or speak with proper english, and black people were killed for this, back in the day, Mr. Congressman.
    Please welcome yourself to the year 2008. Thank You.

    September 5, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  25. djsmoothmood

    are you kidding me? anybody with half a brain knows the connotation, not to mention history, of the word "uppity". It is usually, followed by the word "negro" or the other "n" word....jeez. I see that if you give the republicans enough time, how they REALLY feel and what they REALLY mean will eventually come out. One time for my next president, B. H. Obama! Too bad CNN will have to close this thread after about 20 responses...

    September 5, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
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