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. linda from prescott

    I find it hard to believe that he does not know that uppity is a racial slur

    September 5, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  2. Grow up Obama

    How the hell is "uppity" racial? For the love of God stop using the race card Obama!

    If Obama and his supporters keep this nitpicking about race up, he will lose. This is the same type of crap that happened in the primaries. Can anyone imagine calling the Clintons racists? Its a joke and they know it.

    It will backfire.

    September 5, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  3. 4Obama

    We must remember....Obama just said yesterday "he plays basketball and he has been called worst"......Obama is working for us and we need to focus on that. Let them mock and call names....we need to get people registered to vote and out to vote.

    September 5, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  4. trudy

    wy do you moderate My Comments every time i send one . no one else but me ,that schows me that you are for Mc Can ,no matter what the Republican did to this Country

    September 5, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  5. Anthony

    Why is my comment always awaiting moderation!

    September 5, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  6. Jared

    Well I think this presidential race has brought out the true colors in all of us. One thing and others I have talked to is the huge gap and division that has grown in this country, between the right and the left.

    How much wider can this gap become before we have had enough of each other?

    It is too bad that the news and celebs keep adding to this can people not see what is happening and what is going to happen. History is going to repeat itself again this gap has become so big I don't think it will ever close.

    September 5, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  7. Christy

    You got it right this time CNN readers: an old school politician from Georgia absolutely knows that "uppity" is a racial term. If he could use other racial terms without losing his job, I'm sure we'd be reading about that as well.

    September 5, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  8. Aaron

    I applaud the Congressman. He's the only Republican who, rather than using the word "elitist," is saying what he really means.

    September 5, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  9. King

    Anytime anything negative is said about anyone that isnt white in this country it is considered to ba a racist comment....its the only defence the obama people have against the truth.

    September 5, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  10. Karen

    Education is threatening especially when your an Afro-American. I guess equality is only for the select few. There are so many racist people in this world and McCain is one of them. In his speech, he said not this time, it is my turn, maybe next time. Why should Afro-Americans have to wait to move forward.

    September 5, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  11. bk

    I didn't know that one race owned so many words. What happened to free speech? That must be only apply to the Obama cult.

    September 5, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  12. People make no sense

    I had a very good African American friend of mine tell me that he believed the reason why some Americans' & republicans do not like Obama was because he was African American. We battled over this statement and he told me to mark that date down in rememberance because one day a very inexperienced white person will come on the scene, and people will fall in love with that person. The very same arguements will apply to that person as Obama, but white america & republicans will not care because that person is white. I laughed at him. However, the conversation was in much greater detail in description. During a business trip today I ran into that same friend, and the only words he would say to me is Sarah "white Obama" Palin.


    September 5, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  13. How does CNN determine who gets posted?

    I find it hard that whites pretend to not know when they're being racist. "Boy", "auntie", "girl", "uppity"...the list goes on.

    September 5, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  14. Xavier

    I didn't know the word 'uppity' has racial overtones.
    I wonder how it does?

    September 5, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  15. Jaybird

    The guy was raised in the South at the height of the Civil Rights Movement of the early 60s. Yeah, I'm sure the word uppity is new to him.......

    September 5, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  16. Rebecca from SC

    Like Rep. Westmoreland, I grew up in Atlanta (and since I am just a couple of years older, at about the same time). It is inconceivable that he would be unaware of the racist connotations of his term, having come from that community. The people who are citing the dictionary should also look up "connotation." That said, I'm not sure that this is as offensive as Huckabee's suggestion that Sen. Obama's candidacy is only "symbolic." (Connotation–token black.)

    September 5, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  17. georgia independent

    LOL! It's a dumb word and not that big of a deal, but this guy is from Georgia? Obviously he's been gone too long...

    Just another example that Congress doesn't share the same atmosphere as the rest of us... Even local papers here in middle GA are apparently smarter than the Harvard educated Congressman...

    You are going to have fun next election...

    September 5, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  18. Drake Campbell

    But the Obama's ARE uppity. Mr. Obama is out of his league when it comes to experience. Most African Americans are only voting for him BECAUSE of his race instead of his experience and back ground. The people that vote for those reasons are all uppity as well. They haven't earned the right to vote but yet are given it as part of our constitution which is all fair and good but they should use their vote for the right reasons and not because a bunch of cowardly, left wing, liberals have told them to vote for him.

    September 5, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  19. dj

    wow. get over it people. Michelle O is very upitty. I guess i would to be if I was constantly compaired to Jackie O. ( she does not come close. ) As a matter of fact. I'm not voting for Obama because of his wife.. I believe that Michelle had alot to do with Obama not picking Hillary as his VP. Who would not want the 18 million votes that Hillary could have brought to this party. Come on let's not get senitive.. Uppity is not a big deal. all the supporters of obama better get a handle on themselves or your going to have a rough ride till november. Alot more is coming..

    September 5, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  20. jessica BFE

    all my goddness,

    i though obama and his sopporters(CNN) where all about change, playing the race card does not really sound like change to me.

    September 5, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |


    September 5, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  22. steve

    Sorry, lived in the South all my life; never knew 'uppity' had racial overtones but at the same time haven't heard the term used very much. I hope we get past the mudslinging soon and hear some concrete solutions to our country's problems. Candidates – tell me what you stand for, what you are going to do, and how it will be paid for!

    September 5, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  23. Sarah

    For everyone writing comments that Obama is playing the race card- did you not read the part of the article where Westmoreland's spokesman clearly said OBAMA'S CAMPAIGN DID NOT CALL THIS RACIST.

    I happen to be a white Obama supporter that didn't read any racism into this statement. I am of the opinion that there have been a FEW moments of actual racism and sexism throughout this process, but trying to label every attack this way is wasting everybody's time. I think we all need to take a deep breath.

    September 5, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  24. Brendan H., San Antonio, TX

    I suppose the evangelicals will embrace this ignorant, Southern Republican?!

    September 5, 2008 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  25. Stand alone

    All this news from the Republicans is to distract from NO EXPERIENCE PALIN!! At least Obama will win on his own merits, the republicans are putting Palin out there to try and win for McCain.

    I'm still ashamed of how they are using that woman, his supporters like her better, lol. Even with no experience.

    September 5, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
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