June 10, 2008
As the cable news channels began filling up valuable airtime Monday with discussions of the appropriateness of a New Yorker cover depicting Barack Obama burning an American flag in the Oval Office, under a portrait of Osama bin Laden, another important story was largely ignored by the mainstream media - that of a veteran media personality injecting racially divisive stereotypes into a discussion of Sen. Obama.
This weekend on The McLaughlin Group, the program's host, John McLaughlin, asserted that Obama "fits the stereotype blacks once labeled as an Oreo -- a black on the outside, a white on the inside."
McLaughlin: "Question: Does it frost Jackson, Jesse Jackson, that someone like Obama, who fits the stereotype blacks once labeled as an Oreo -- a black on the outside, a white on the inside -- that an Oreo should be the beneficiary of the long civil rights struggle which Jesse Jackson spent his lifetime fighting for?"
McLaughlin's statement was so obviously out of touch and inappropriate that two members of the McLaughlin panel refuted the basic premise. Panelist and Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow Peter Beinart said: "Who knows what Jesse Jackson is thinking? But that's a completely unfair depiction of Barack Obama."
Later in the discussion, Michelle Bernard, president of the Independent Women's Forum, said: "I want to go back to the point you made about whether or not Obama is an Oreo, because 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."
The all-important weekend political talk shows set the agenda for our nation's newsrooms and the acceptable terms of our public discourse -- McLaughlin's comments weren't just offensive, they were a relic of politics past.
I hope you will take a moment and make your voice heard on this important issue.
PS -- This isn't the first time John McLaughlin has used stereotypes to define the Obamas. Earlier this year on his program McLaughlin asked syndicated columnist Clarence Page about Michelle Obama, "You don't think she's a black militant?"