WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — The White House says President Barack Obama doesn’t regret using the N-word to make a point about racial progress in an interview.
Spokesman Josh Earnest says the White House isn’t surprised that the president uttering a word used as a racial slur would stir controversy.
But Earnest says Obama didn’t plan in advance to use the word to be provocative.
He says Obama was speaking in a free-flowing, casual interview for a podcast and trying to make the point that ending racism is about more than manners.
Obama said that just because people realize it’s not polite to use the racial slur in public doesn’t mean that racism is “cured.”
“Racism, we are not cured of it,” Obama said on comedian Marc Maron’s WTF podcast. “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 president said while attitudes about race have improved significantly since he was born to a white mother and black father, the legacy of slavery “casts a long shadow and that’s still part of our DNA that’s passed on.”
Obama also expressed frustration that “the grip of the NRA on Congress is extremely strong” and prevented gun control from advancing in Congress after 20 children and six educators were massacred in a Connecticut elementary school in 2012.
“I will tell you, right after Sandy Hook, Newtown, when 20 6-year-olds are gunned down, and Congress literally does nothing — yes, that’s the closest I came to feeling disgusted,” he said. “I was pretty disgusted.”
He said it’s important to respect that hunting and sportsmanship are important to a lot of gun-owning Americans. “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,”Obama said in a reference to suspect Dylann Storm Roof, whose purported 2,500-word hate-filled manifesto talked about white supremacy. Roof faces nine counts of murder in connection with Wednesday’s shooting.
Obama sat for the interview Friday in Maron’s Los Angeles garage studio — close to where the president attended Occidental College — and seemed to marvel at the absurdity of it. “If I thought to myself that when I was in college that I’d be in a garage a couple miles away from where I was living, doing an interview as president, with a comedian … it’s not possible to imagine,” he said. But he said he did the interview because he wants to reach a nontraditional audience and “break out of these old patterns that our politics has fallen into” where “it’s not this battle in a steel cage between one side and another.”
With the campaign to replace him heating up, Obama said he thinks he would be a better candidate if he were running again, because although he’s slowed down a little bit, “I know what I’m doing and I’m fearless.”
“I’ve screwed up. I’ve been in the barrel tumbling down Niagara Falls. And I emerged and I lived. And that’s always such a liberating feeling,” he said.
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