White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters today that President Obama “does not” regret using the N-word during a podcast.
“Racism, we are not cured of,” Obama said on comedian Marc Maron’s “WTF” broadcast. “And it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say ‘nigger’ in public. That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It’s not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don’t, overnight, completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior.”
Earnest said Obama’s “use of the word and the reason that he used the word could not be more apparent from the context of his discussion on the podcast.”
The president was trying to make clear that it’s not possible “to judge the nation’s process on race issues based solely on an evaluation of country’s manners,” he added. “The fact is that we’ve made undeniable progress in this country over the last several decades, and as the president himself has often said, anyone who lived in this country through the ’50s and the ’60s and the ’70s and the ’80s notes the tremendous progress that we’ve made. That progress is undeniable.”
“But what’s also undeniable is that there is more work that needs to be done, and there’s more that we can do. And the fact is everyone in this country should take some inspiration from the progress that was made in the previous generation and use that as a motivation and an inspiration to try to make further progress toward a more perfect union.”
Prodded by reporters, Earnest said “I don’t know that I’ve heard” Obama speak the N-word before, even though it was used several times in his memoir.
“It was a free-flowing conversation,” he said of the president’s podcast interview. “It was pretty wide-ranging, and there was no decision made on the part of anybody here at the White House that we are going to capitalize on this audio interview from somebody’s garage in California, that this would be an opportune time for him to get this particular point off his chest.”
“In fact, I think the point he is making is entirely consistent with the way he has made this point both in settings where he is delivering from prepared remarks, but also when he is answering — in the context of answering other questions.”