Doug Lamborn's Barack Obama-tar baby remark: Intentionally racist or harmless?

doug lamborn cropped.jpg
Lamborn.
As we reported yesterday, Doug Lamborn said that being associated with Barack Obama was like touching a tar baby during a Friday radio appearance -- a gaffe for which he's now apologized. But did he need to? An editorial in the Colorado Springs Gazette suggests it was really no big deal -- and a related poll shows that readers are divided about whether the remark was intentionally racist or utterly harmless.

In the editorial, the Gazette's Wayne Laugesen traces the roots of the "tar baby" expression, which refers to a "sticky situation" -- but he concedes that its association with the Uncle Remus stories also carries with it a negative connotation toward African-Americans. As such, Laugesen maintains that Lamborn "should certainly have known better than to use a phrase that needs to die. This will call into question his judgement and his attitude toward black people."

Afterward, however, Laugesen contrasts major twentieth century political figures once tainted by racist activities, from Harry Truman to Robert Byrd, with more recent language kerfuffles related to Obama, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's 2008 comment that the man who became president is a "light-skinned African American with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one."

Laugesen's conclusion? "Let us all stop saying 'tar-baby,' for sure. For using this phrase, Lamborn will pay. He is mired in a controversy that will get worse as he fights against it. But let's keep perspective. Relative to the racial hatred and insensitivity that permeates political rhetoric of the past and present, this should be far from a major-league scandal."

As for Gazette readers, they're divided about whether Lamborn should be castigated. At this writing, 36 percent believe the tar-baby quip was "intentionally racist," while an equal percentage see it as "Harmless. He was describing a quagmire; he meant no offense." Here's a screen capture of the poll:

doug lamborn tar baby poll.jpg
To hear Lamborn's remark for yourself, click here.

More from our Politics archive: "Doug Lamborn retreats as the National Renewable Energy Lab touts its achievements."

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80 comments
bestledcompany
bestledcompany

its all about Doug Lamborn's Barack Obama-tar baby remark: Intentionally racist or harmless?thanks for sharing ..

Jim Pirtle
Jim Pirtle

Being a Politician, and an opponent of Mr. Lamborns I will defend his freedom of speech, however I must condemn his use of a term that could be used as a racial comment.  Any Politican must speak to all people and use virbage that is commonly used.  Tar Baby is a reference to a book read to children.  Even if the word he say's his should have used is quagmire, that does not fit in the sentence.Jim Pirtle

Corey196917
Corey196917

 If he did not know this was a racist remark, he should reframe from future interviews on anything relating to blacks. In the black community we know this is a racist remark. He should know since it was the whites that gave it to us.

Lula
Lula

If you do NOTHING to stop the POISON that spills out of your "friends" that flow "as a 'natural' (?!) course of events", you, sir, are JUST AS guilty as if you were the one saying the BS, since any man/woman of character WITH principles would NOT stand idly by & allow his/her friends to say BS while they are present....a person with convictions would enlighten his "friends" to the WRONGS of what they are saying!

Lula
Lula

"gabby" sure sounds awfully suspicious....NEVER heard ANY black person say it is NOT a racial reference, even when read the story as a child, we KNEW the intent....so, yeah, nice attempt there, 'gabby', but seriously, lol.

Nbjam
Nbjam

How could it not be racist.  Do you know what a tar baby is?

Robert Chase
Robert Chase

You go more than a little bit too far, Max.  I am a fifty-two-year-old white male, raised in the South.  I am not racist, nor am I tolerant of racism, in casual conversation or otherwise  -- while there are undoubtedly social groups such as you describe, and white males of my age may be more likely to be racist than others, the situation you describe is, I believe, uncommon, except in certain recesses of the deep South and elsewhere.

Julie
Julie

As a black chick, I am not offended because I have come to expect this kind of immature behavior from the republicans. I don't know why he bothered apologizing, because it only reveals how he truly feels. If you are going to say something you know will offend people, at least have the decency to stand by it when it hits the fan.

Besides, I've heard far worse come out of the mouths of Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Ann Coulter and with little condemnation from anyone might I add.

Reaves belva
Reaves belva

It was done intentionally and itwas a racist statement. If it was Bush would that word have been used?

MatDee918
MatDee918

Doug lamborn, how Dare you make a remark like that?!! It's racist crackers like you, that need to get on a boat, with some rope, put it around your neck & your racist ass friends; and carry your ass back to Europe where you're originally from. Have a blessed day! Bueno

Vlevine417
Vlevine417

As a lifelong member of the NAACP I call this racism. These words have the power to hurt and are intended to hurt and demean. This man was speaking in an unguarded manner and what slipped out is slipping out more frequently these day. It is racism. Barack Obama is a thorn in the flesh of many who cannot believe this elegant black man has achieved so much. It makes their superiority so suspect!  They want to bring him down but there are those of us who intend to have him back for a second term. I will be proud to vote for him!

Jeanieboo1120
Jeanieboo1120

First of all we are all sick of " White folks throwing rocks and then putting their hands behind their backs" !!! We are sick of it!! Get over it, Obama is the Black President off the United States it is what it is!!!This racist comments they blurt them out for the world to hear - and hurry up and come back with an apology - NOT ACCEPTED!!!  We as a people are no longer  and will never be quiet over these hateful racist remarks an't having it - send Mr. Lamborn on his way, this is not back then, its now and we are a strong people so get to steppin!!!!

psuedonym
psuedonym

Let me offer a not-so-modest proposal: That the notion of a "secret ballot" is at least partially responsible for the current spate of Tea-Klanner know-nothingism being seen in American politics.

Instead, let's have the voters go on the record and take direct responsibility for their actions. In the case of Doug Lamborn, the voters stupid enough, bigoted enough and angry enough to be responsible for putting this assclown into office should suffer the consequences of their idiocy.

Such as being denied access to any and all government programs ("They're socialist, don'tcha know!") and even the ability to inflict further damage by voting.

We take away guns, cars and other dangerous items from irresponsible individuals; why not do the same with the vote?

Dave Thrush
Dave Thrush

"Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" from the bible. So, all you self righteous folk... does this include Bill Mahers M.I.L.F. comment 2 weeks ago about Palin and Bachmann? or how 'bout Bidens classy remark as well as several NYT columnists this week calling Tea Party congress members "Terrorists?" didn't think so...

LAKEIDRICK
LAKEIDRICK

HARMLESS OR INTENTIONIALLY RACIST, IT SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN USED.  THEREE'S 2 MUCH NEGATIVITY ASSICIATED WITH THE TERM TO BE USED BY SOMEONE IN OFFICE.  WHAT HE SAYS IN PRIVATE IS ONE THINGS BUT NOT ON PUBLIC RADIO.  BY THE WAY HAS ANYONE SAW ANYTHING ABOUT THIS ON TV? 

j from atlanta
j from atlanta

he is a racist and a coward, because he can't even own up to his own feelings. the person who quoted part of the bible scripture "out of the abundance of the heart your mouth does speak", is correct. God will reveal the wickeness of man's heart. especially those who are in high authority who are suppose to be leaders. so we will no longer be deceived.

Id
Id

He's a racist who just cna't help himself!! IF it looks like a racist and talks like a racist then it is what it is!!!

Wonder would he have call Bush a "tar baby"?

ID

Beavis
Beavis

Typical calculated dog-whistle racist Tealiban dumbfuckery.

Bdowning7
Bdowning7

Lamborn's comment was probably a slip of the tongue. However, I would not want to hear what he says when he's not on radio. When he's with all the others who think like him. He more than likely made several of his constituents gloat. I don't mind him letting the world know what he thinks about President Obama because it exposes him.  Isn't he an educated man? President Obama is a very, very educated person (Harvard, is it?). That could be one reason why he is faced with so much opposition.

Vpatterson1963
Vpatterson1963

Mr. Lamborn he meant exactly what he said .. They just hate the fact that the President is an African American and it is really bringing out the worst in these politicians.  That is why we need to remove these old ass Jim Crow politicians from office.  We are "ALL in this sinking ship together and we dont care who gets us out of the mess years of government has put us in..But as you can see everytime the republicians open up their mouths all kinds of hatred bones fall out.!!!!!!!!

BCJ
BCJ

 That was ignorant, careless and cruel; however the most blatant act of injustice has surfaced and will have a devastating impact on 90% of Americans.  We should be marching, protesting and waging strong dialogue against the debt ceiling deal that the House passed that will cut billions from education, clean energy, and health programs with potential cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, and it will protect millionaires, billionaires, and corporations from paying their fair share.  BCJ Pelham

Robert Chase
Robert Chase

Lamborn is a blight on the landscape -- shame on the people of the 5th Congressional District for electing him!

JD
JD

I am surprised that other major media sources such as CNN and local news entities have not promoted this.  But then again all forms of media is controlled.  First the President was embarrassed when a New York Post article showed a picture of him being shot by a police officer.  Then, he was further embarrassed during a state of the union address by being called a lier; something that has never been done before.  More recently this comment.  As expected, the media outlets that do follow the story will ask the question does the president forgive the comment made by this individual?  He should not except the apology.  If he did not mean any intentional harm, he would not have said it.  It was blatant.  Who is going to be the next person saying something so racist, malicious, and vile?  What are they going to say or do; burn a cross in front of the white house?  And so many people say can't we just get along or forget about slavery?  How can this be accomplished when you have individuals of this country in the highest level of government in our country who are racist.  It does not get any higher than that folks.  

Hank Henry
Hank Henry

I think that the words used was done to show that he did not respect the president. President Jimmy Carter said the reason that things like this happen is because of this president skin color. I believe that we can all work for the common good; lets do the work without trying to play politic with people emotion and survival.  

KJM
KJM

You can google tar baby and get a definition that refers to term as innocent and non-racist.  However, if you grew up in the 50s and 60s you would understand where the outrage is coming from. A CONGRESSMAN referring to the PRESIDENT (an African American to boot) as a tar baby is disgraceful.  It is totally unacceptable.  Of all the references he could use he chose that term!  This congressman is arrogant and feels empowered to do this - if this country wants to be stronger and better and teach our child be be more tolerant of others - Doug Lamborn and any other politician who is disrespectful of OUR President needs to go. Let me assure you it was not unintentional - politicians don't do anything unintentionally - if you believe that I have some land I can sale you.

It is a sad day in American that some politicians are stalling legislation - and they can give all these drummed up reasons but bottom line they do not want to see this African American be successful. Who is going to pay? The backbone of this country - you and me!

Concerned American
Concerned American

Racism. End of discussion. He needs to resign as well as ALL the rest of the racists who where voted into office, and freely choose to abuse their offices and FOREVER TARNISH the office of the president. This goes DOUBLY for the idiot who bellowed, "YOU LIE."

Blynnecoleman
Blynnecoleman

I feel he is a ignorant racist ass...And not only should he apologize...he should not be in public office if he can not put racist view in the pass...this comment shows you how his mind works he indeed is a racist man and should not be re-elected because of that  and because he is a member of the country destroying Tea Party!!!

DJKELVIN11
DJKELVIN11

HE MUST LOOSE HIS JOB FOR THAT STATEMENT

EJ
EJ

This idiot is a hate monger and needs to be kicked out of office!!

Csunliz
Csunliz

HE IS A RACIST.  CALLS ARE GOING OUT NOW FOR HIM TO STAND DOWN FROM OFFICE. HOW CAN HE EFFECTIVELY SERVE ANYONE WITH HIS DEMENTED, TWISTED AND SICK MENTALITY?

Jahfre Fire Eater
Jahfre Fire Eater

The expression has nothing to do with race. Only a racist could view it as such without regard to the origins and common usage of the phrase. Kinda like think someone who orders blackend prime rib is a racist.

Lula
Lula

Maybe you SHOULD be offended, as we ALL should....and call this BS out for what it IS! RACISM, pure & simple! Until we stand UNITED that we will NOT allow this crap to continue & allow some to make excuses that JUSTIFY these wrongs, these acts of unadultered racism will not end! And I, for one, am offended!

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

That was fast. Thanks for the link, NowPower. We're going to make it a Comment -- and T-shirt -- of the day. Much appreciated.

eCurmudgeon
eCurmudgeon

Nothing so infuriates a lefty than, after adamantly espousing "choice", you should choose wrong.

Eric
Eric

Great post.

Eric
Eric

Delighted to reply to you, thrush.

He's a sitting U.S. Congressman that intentionally used inflammatory rhetoric on a rightwing blowhard's radio program, insulting the President of the United States in the cowardly way republicans do.

Also, the VP was accurate in his assessment of the teabag minority. They are economic terrorists that were willing to send the economy into freefall in order to make a point...........about something these pinheads apparently know nothing about.

The debt  ceiling being raised has nothing............NOTHING to do with future spending. It pays the bills we as a society have racked up to this point. This raising covers the bush tax cuts, the subsisies taxpayers giv the oil companies, the prescription drug plan, 2 wars, and the lack of ANY tax revenue coming in from Corporations, which are currently paying the lowest tax rates in U.S. history.  It has been raised 37 times in recent history, and was never threatened until now.

Next time you post, know what you're talking about.

 

Spicy53
Spicy53

Hell No.......needs to be on every channel and talked about until that asshole lamborn resigns........... 

Bdowning7
Bdowning7

I agree, President Obama has been disrespected from the onset of his candidacy for the President of the United States. Don't forget when "that guy" rolled into the Inauguration in a wheelchair and very soon after -- the next day, I think -- was seen walking. That was Representative Joe Wilson (R. - SC) who yelled, "you lie." It's disrespectful incidents like those that opened the door for others because there was no repercussion. The latest is that the President of the United States has been referred to as a "boy" by one of the world renowned commentators. These people who are disrespecting the President of the United States with actions and slurs, and more, have been socially conditioned and an apology is just words without the slightest bit of sincerity. What I don't understand is, why President Obama is blamed for situations that were created before he became President of the United States. Then, again, I do. Presidents before him made decisions that were mistakes -- but were they scrutinized to the degree that President Obama is scrutinized? The media is one of his worse enemies -- biased reporting. For a while, I thought I had misunderstood that Barack Obama was elected the President of the United States since I was always seeing Senator John McCain (Arizona) being interviewed regarding the President.Forget about  "getting along and forgetting about slavery." It'll never happen. As I said -- socially conditioned -- even those who don't have that pot to ---- in.That day is coming when we will individually answer for our actions!

Me
Me

KJM, I think you're spot on. A lot of these people didn't grow up in the South, and aren't old enough to remember the '50s and '60s and what the "tar baby" slur really meant in that time and place. So they think it's innocent, while we "of a certain age" know better.

eatsleephunt
eatsleephunt

You mean like Biden calling Tea Partiers terrorists?  

Lula
Lula

So it would be OK in our society to start using the SWASTIKA?...I mean, since of course it's orgins have nothing to do with the NAZI's, ya know..............

Julie
Julie

Jahfre, its ironic but what you said is far more racist than what Lamborn said. I can't stand it when someone responds to an accusation of racism by saying only a racist would say something racist. No wonder no one can have real discussions on racial issues that could actually IMPROVE race relations, people like you are too busy saying its racist to call a racist person racist.

LarryQ5
LarryQ5

You have obviously been eating too much fire....

Spicy
Spicy

I am infuriated at that racist pig lamborn, I do not want apologies, he needs to resign and then  hung from his b_l_ s...I feel these knuckleheads have been disrespecting our President too long..What a bunch of fools and ignorant people who are still wearing white robes, only they have those silly hats off now. If they want a war they will get one. This has gone too far. They can't stand it because they wish they could be as intelligent as Our handsome and sauve PRESIDENT. tHOSE that feel like that racist pig are just as bad......   

Spicy53
Spicy53

I'm glad you noticed that asshole terrorist cheney...........

Me
Me

Biden was entirely accurate in calling tea-baggers terrorists. The Al-Qaeda terrorists want to destroy the U.S. government. So does Grover Norquist, the lamebrain behind the Tea-Bagger movement, who has proudly declared that he wants to shrink government down to the size where "we can drown it in a bathtub."

Eric
Eric

Won't happen, Cletus.

Yer teabag kin held the entire economy hostage, and all Americans are getting hit by the fallout.

The repubs will and should be held accountable for allowing the red party to be led around by the nose by these economic terrorists.

The answer is a filibuster proof Democratic Senate and overwhelming Democratic majority in the House.

And it's going to happen.........thanks to teabag nation.

eatsleephunt
eatsleephunt

So much for toning down the rhetoric and vitriol.  Can't wait to see you libbies cry in 2012.

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