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Two Republicans rethink racially tinged remarks

Rep. Doug Lamborn and TV commentator Patrick Buchanan backtrack after using the terms 'tar baby' and 'boy,' respectively, in reference to President Obama.

August 04, 2011|By Michael Muskal, Los Angeles Times
  • Colorado Congressman Doug Lamborn and TV commentator Pat Buchanan.
Colorado Congressman Doug Lamborn and TV commentator Pat Buchanan. (Associated Press )

A Colorado congressman and a prominent television commentator have backtracked after using racially tinged language — "tar baby" and "boy" — when referring to the policies of President Obama, whose election as the first African American president was hailed as the beginning of an era of post-racial politics.

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) and Patrick Buchanan, an MSNBC political analyst, found themselves wrestling with their comments, which have been viewed as racist.

Amid the partisan battle over raising the debt ceiling, Lamborn took to the airwaves last week to criticize Obama's policies, comparing them to a "tar baby." The Tar-Baby is a doll made of tar and turpentine used to entrap Br'er Rabbit in the second of the Uncle Remus stories. Though it was used to mean a sticky situation, it has also become a racist term to describe African Americans.

In a letter to Obama, Lamborn apologized for using the phrase. In a statement, Lamborn's office said he was attempting to tell a radio audience that Obama's "policies have created an economic quagmire for the nation and are responsible for the dismal economic conditions our country faces. He regrets that he chose the phrase 'tar baby' rather than the word 'quagmire.' "

Buchanan, a GOP presidential candidate in 1992 and 1996, appeared on his cable network's "Morning Joe" program Wednesday to explain his remarks the night before when he referred to Obama as "your boy" during a discussion with the Rev. Al Sharpton.

The pair, on opposite sides of the ideological road, were discussing Obama's actions when Buchanan said that "your boy," Obama, had caved during negotiations. The word boy has been used as a racial slur for African Americans.

"My what?" Sharpton asked. "My president, Barack Obama? What did you say?"

Buchanan, using a boxing analogy, replied that Obama was "your boy in the ring."

"He's nobody's boy," Sharpton said. "He's your president, he's my president, and that's what you have to get through your head."

Buchanan took note Wednesday. "Some folks took what I said as some kind of a slur," Buchanan said. "None was meant, none was intended, none was delivered."

michael.muskal@latimes.com

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