Ed Driscoll

Where's Groucho, Chico, and Harpo When You Need Them?

Coconuts — they’re not just for Marx Brothers movies anymore!

MSNBC and CNBC contributor Donny Deutsch used racially charged language on Monday night, smearing Republican senatorial candidate Marco Rubio as a “coconut.” Deutsch appeared on HLN’s Joy Behar Show and used the word, which both the New York Times and Urban Dictionary define as a “person who is tan on the outside” and “white on the inside.” Rubio is the son of Cuban exiles. [Audio available here.]

Deutsch employed the derogatory term while hitting politicians with no experience. He noted the success of such candidates and derided, “…You almost need that blank piece of paper. That’s the new model. Like, you know, this coconut Rubio down in Florida.”

The word has previously inflamed racial tensions. The New York Times reported on October 3, 1996 that Democratic House candidate Victor Morales called a Republican Congressman who endorsed his opponent a “coconut” and was forced to apologize:

But some editorial writers and political operatives feel Mr. Morales may have gone too far last week when he accused Representative Henry Bonilla, the only Hispanic Republican in the Texas delegation and a Gramm supporter, of being a ”coconut.” The term is used to depict a person as being brown on the outside and white on the inside.

Mr. Morales later apologized. ”In the heat of a deeply felt disagreement, I used terms I should not have used,” he said.

Ironically, just seconds after calling Rubio a coconut, Deutsch lashed out against tea partiers, slamming them as racist: “No, they’re angry- they’re basically- their argument is- and I think there’s a lot of racism underneath it- is- ‘He, they, are taking your civil liberties away. They’re stomping on the Constitution. They’re telling us how many bullets we can have in our guns.'”

Deutsch regularly appears on CNBC and MSNBC’s Morning Joe. Will those networks call on him to apologize? Will they distance themselves from such language?

It certainly sounds like racism straight up to me. What say you, Janeane and Keith?