*The White House has shrugged off a bit of public outrage stemming from late-night comedian Larry Wilmore’s n-word reference to President Barack Obama during his routine at last weekend’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. After Wilmore referred to the historical importance of Obama as the country’s first black president, he added “So, Mr. President, if I’m going to keep it 100: Yo, Barry, you did it, my n—ga. You did it.”
While the reference created quite a stir amid everyone from the Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart to Rev. Al Sharpton, the Washington Post reports that after speaking with the President regarding the matter, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest explained that the President had no issues with the remark. Earnest added that Obama “appreciated the spirit and the sentiments that Mr. Wilmore expressed.”
The Washington Post reports Earnest added, “He [Wilmore] ended his speech by saying that he couldn’t put into words the pride that he felt in this president, and he made the observation that this country has made remarkable progress in this lifetime. I’m confident that Mr. Wilmore used the word by design. He was seeking to be provocative. But I think any reading of his comments makes it clear he was not using the president as a butt of a joke.”
In contrast, Capehart published a blog condemning Wilmore for the routine.
“Never before has the n-word been used to address the president. At least, not in public and most definitely not to his face,” wrote the WaPo columnist. “That’s why Wilmore’s use of it was as shocking as it was disrespectful. And that’s why many African Americans in the room and watching on television were appalled by Wilmore’s excessive and inappropriate down-home familiarity with the leader of the free world in front of the world.” According to the Los Angeles Times, Sharpton told a group of MSNBC reporters that the remark was “in poor taste.”
Monday, when Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks April Ryan questioned Earnest about Wilmore’s controversial comments, he rationalized that “comedians are gonna go right up to the line.”
The Washington Post reports Earnest stated:
“Any comedian who’s signed up to follow President Obama at the White House Correspondents’ dinner is assuming one of the most difficult tasks in comedy. Just by the nature of the engagement, that’s a tough job, following the president of the United States. It’s not the first time in the Monday after the correspondents’ dinner that some people have observed that the comedian at the dinner crossed the line.”
We’d love to know your thoughts? Did Wilmore cross the line or was he just provocative enough?