President Obama dropped the N-word during a podcast with comedian Marc Maron, sparking controversy not only about his use of the word but how media outlets should run it.
Obama was the guest on Maron’s “WTF” broadcast, where the two talked about racism in the United States from the podcast host’s L.A. garage.
“Racism, we are not cured of,” Obama said. “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.”
The legacy of slavery “casts a long shadow and that’s still part of our DNA that’s passed on,” he added.
Obama also talked about his renewed push for gun-control measures, arguing “the question is just is there a way of accommodating that legitimate set of traditions with some common-sense stuff that prevents a 21-year-old who is angry about something or confused about something, or is racist, or is deranged from going into a gun store and suddenly is packing, and can do enormous harm.”
While the White House has not issued a statement on the interview, CNN cited a spokesperson noting that Obama used the N-word “about a dozen times” in his memoir Dreams from My Father.
CNN decided to not edit the audio and to spell out the word in its story when included as part of Obama’s quote. The New York Times also used the full word.
“We wanted to avoid any unsuspecting rip and read of our story resulting in ‘n—–‘ getting on the air,” Associated Press spokesman Paul Colford told CNN in an email. The wire service used the N-word in its final story. “Our reasoning was: It’s the president talking, and using that specific word to make a point.”
Fox and MSNBC bleeped out Obama’s N-word, as well as NBC and ABC.
Obama, who was in L.A. on a fundraising swing, added during the podcast that he thinks “the American people are, overwhelmingly, good, decent people.”
“Everybody that I meet believes in a lot of the same things … they believe in honesty, and family and community and looking out for each other,” he said. “The problem is there is a big gap between who we are as a people and how our politics expresses itself.”
He also told Maron that his teenage daughters Sasha and Malia are “in the age where they still love me, but they think I’m completely boring.”
“And so they’ll come and pat me on the head, talk to me for 10 minutes, and then they’re gone all weekend,” he said, adding, “They break my heart.”