verbal diarrhea

Was Chris Matthews’ “I Forgot Obama Was Black” Comment Racist? Or Just Race-ish?

Chris Matthews is a white Irish man who last night reminded everyone that President Obama is black, by noting on MSNBC last night, after watching the State of the Union, that “I forgot he was black tonight for an hour.” This was a poor way to address a subject that does need addressing: race in America.

It was neither the time nor the place, however. And the comments have Matthews facing critics. As he should. It also had Matthews popping up later in the hour to “explain” what he really meant with those comments (below).

We don’t mind Matthews, or anyone, discussing the color of the president’s skin, and noting that most political power brokers in Washington are white. That’s the reality, and given racism is alive and well, it’s worth discussing. But the comment was plainly idiotic, and neither Keith Olbermann nor Rachel Maddow, who were on the program at that time, interjected. Which was their own fail.

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  • rainfish2000

    Hey, well at least a “thrill went up Matthews’ leg” when Matthews said it.

    (for those of you who are not political junkies and addicted to pundits on cable tv… Matthews said during the campaign that a “thrill went up his leg” each time Obama spoke)

    So, maybe Matthews’ new gaff is simply a homoerotic political love affair fantasy he’s been having where Matthews just wants to keep his eyes closed and the lights out so he can feel more “comfortable” having metaphorical, rhetorical sex with a half Black man.

    You’d think that Matthews is a closeted toe queen as much as he likes putting his foot in his own mouth.

    So, if Matthews ever visits the White House for a little “one on one” with Obama, I hope Linda Trip advises him not to take his jacket to the cleaners.

    …Just a thought. :)

  • Kieran

    Actually, President Obama is biracial. His mother was white, and his father was black. That means he’s biracial. Or is it “politically incorrect” to say “biracial” nowadays?

  • Transracial

    It’s interesting that the President’s color is used repeatedly by folks on THIS VERY SITE to bash what many perceive as his inaction on LGBT issues.

    Yet when Matthews mentions it — yes, in an awkward and unnecessary way — he is taken down.

    So lets get this straight. Gay people can refer to Obama’s race as proof he “owes” us something. With little regard for its implications. But Matthew’s cant!

    Seems odd to me.

  • dvlaries

    Linda Ellerbee once put it beautifully: ” Television is a great time-saver. It allows you to make a fool of yourself in front of large groups of people, instead of one at time. “

  • PADude

    Poorly said? Sure. However, isn’t the ultimate point to eventually see everybody as just people instead of just white people and just black people and just…?

    It doesn’t quite seem he meant it that way, though. Without further proof, I’ll read it as a neutral statement.

  • Same Crap

    “Actually, President Obama is biracial. His mother was white, and his father was black. That means he’s biracial. Or is it “politically incorrect” to say “biracial” nowadays?”

    One-drop rule.

  • greenluv1322

    It was out of pocket. I was offended. And I am not easily offended. It’s a fact. By the perception standards of America Obama is indeed black. But what about it? He has been the president for a fucking year! There are real black people walking around and we don’t need this shit. Get it together, there is nothing inherently un-human about black people. So at best it an ignorant as attempt at “I like him, in-spite of his blackness” How fucking retarded! And you all wonder why black people play the “race card” because is evidently all that you white people think about.

  • RomanHans

    > Poorly said? Sure. However, isn’t the ultimate point
    > to eventually see everybody as just people instead
    > of just white people and just black people and just…?

    Sigh. That’s the stupidest justification I’ve heard of racism in a looong time. When Mr. Matthews says he forgot somebody was white, we’ll talk.

    The remark was totally offensive. Obama was intelligent and charismatic. Which part of that, exactly, makes one forget he’s black?

    As for Obama being biracial, here’s what Public Enemy says in “Fear of a Black Planet”:

    “Black man, black woman: black baby.
    White man, white woman, white baby.
    White man, black woman, black baby.
    Black man, white woman, black baby.”

  • Mike L

    Not really, b/c I think that’s what happens w many ppl, they stop seeing what makes them different from each other and see them for who they are rather than what they look like or what their sexual orientation is or their religion. It happens.

  • Scott in NYC

    Chris Matthews is one of the most obnoxious, hard-to-watch people on television today. Which would explain his toilet ratings.

    It would be nice if the people who claim to want to live in a post-racial country stopped making everything, ad nauseum, about race. You keep making it an issue and eventually someone with whom you disagree will too. And there’s no stopping that once the floodgates were open.

    But then again, what would Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson do if race ceased to be an issue?

  • Ted B. (Charging Rhino)

    Of course it’s racist….and this bloviator wanted to be the Democratic Senator from Pennsylvania?

    If a Republican said that he’s be yanked off the air.

  • Rex

    Racist is one of those words people love to bandy about, while not quite knowing its meaning. In this instance how peculiar that a group of people would so object to an honest observation. Seems like Matthews had a point and though it might be unwise to make it public, it is true. If someone thinks I have a biracial president does that make it racist or does that make it true? Seems to the whole argument about “racism” has gotten out of hand, though I think Matthews regrets the statement because his intent was not hatred and frankly, not once did I think about the presidents race, but rather how republicans look like old queens: John Boehner who seems to spend a lot time in tanning machines and wears eyeliner, aunty Mitch McConnell and lets not start with Miss Graham. So while we spend our time and energy condemning a news reporters unwise remarks, no one mentions the buying of american politics by companies via the new supreme court decision. As usual, the priorities are simply wrong.

  • J. Clarence

    How do you remind someone that the president is Black? Isn’t it kind of obvious, Queerty?

    Look, Chris Matthews doesn’t have a racist bone in his body, what he was trying to say, and what he explained, was that Obama’s race played a pivotal role in his campaign and his first year in office (see Tea Party’s Obama is a Witch Doctor); however, last night the issue of race did not even enter our frame of mind. He was just the President of the United States. Not the First Black President or even that Non-Negro Dialect speaking President, just the president.

    That is a bit of an achievement for a country that so quickly sees the world through Black N’ White goggles.

  • MickW

    Seems like Chris Matthews has been hanging around with some of the readers of this website.

  • Lalita

    I thought he meant that he actually forgot that Obama was black, but by phrasing it that way, he meant that he always wees Obama as black, thereby emphasizing his race.

    I thought he did what I did just a few weeks ago! I was watching one of my regular TV shows when they showed one of the main characters getting involved with a black man. One of the random thought that passed through my mind was, “Oh, they’re giving her a biracial relationship. Kudos.” as I usually think whenever I see that it on a TV show. About two minutes later, I realized it was NOT a biracial relationship, I had just failed to notice that she was also black, too. Now that’s actually forgetting.

  • Michael W.

    Obama isn’t even all that black. He was raised as a white boy by his white mother and white grandparents in Hawaii. He never saw a hood until he went to Chicago after college during his very brief stint as a community organizer, a place where he used blacks like Jeremiah Wright and the people of Trinity United like props to gain footing in politics. That Chris Matthews needed to forget he was black shows his ignorance. Nobody should see a black man when they look at Obama, he’s a white Harvard yuppie with a tan. I’m blacker than him. I lived with blacks as a kid, went to school with them, befriended them. I was raised on hip hop music. I lived the black experience (albeit I’m thankful that it’s over) and unlike Obama it wasn’t a sociological experiment along my path to Washington, DC.

  • reason

    Chris Matthews made an honest comment; the mistake he made is not putting out bullet points in preschool language like fox news so the public could understand what he was saying. Chris grew up in a time when there was no African Americans in his class, and the U.S. was extremely prejudice, and as a student of history, Chris was trying to convey the gravity of watching an African American president address the nation without race on most viewers minds just 45 years after Jim Crow. Forty-five years ago most American’s would have thought never in my lifetime many over my dead body, but yesterday said something totally different and that is profound. I think it speaks volumes about the brilliance of this country, things are not perfect, but the strength of our spirit can prevail over adversity. All gay Americans should find hope in Chris Matthews words, some that walk among us may never see the day but I believe many of us will.

  • reason

    @Michael W.:

    Lived the black experience? What would the be? Last I checked African Americans were a diverse group coming form different socio-economic backgrounds and levels of affluence and education. Also last time I checked not all blacks listened to hip hop music. You represent another reason why some people misinterpreted Chris, they are mindbogglingly out of touch with the reality that surrounds them. People are different on one side of town to the other let alone state to state, some need to travel more and engage with others. I hate to make an attack, but it is just to annoying granted I see the same thing applied to Jews, Gays, Arabs, Whites, Asians and so on, so I must say in this case your ignorance is boundless.

  • Chitown Kev

    People black and white (or any other ethnicity), gay and straight (and all the combinations of that, have said this to me for most of my life.

    The statement is actually somewhere on the continuum between “race-ish” and “racist.” It has to do more with Obama’s cultural experiences (Michael W. points out some of this) and what people subconsciously think of when they think of black people.

    It’s not quite racist, because I understand from experience what people are trying to say.

    But embedded in it is the stereotype that black people and black culture are monolithic. For example, in the high school that I went to, the kids who drove the BMWs to school were by and large black bourgies.

    What does happen is that white people seem to feel quite free in saying comments about black people that, on the surface, are racist…well, they are racist, but it has more to do with class.

    And of course, to some other blacks, I’m not “really black,” I’m acting white.

    And, yes, it is a position of privilege

  • PADude

    @RomanHans: Sorry, race baiting isn’t going to fly with me. It happens both ways, and I’ve seen it both ways.

    That Chris Matthews actually overcame his prejudices for a moment is amazing. It doesn’t mean they aren’t still there. They are. But he managed to rise above them for a moment, and that’s commendable. It’s just too bad they were back in place when he made his comment.

  • Chitown Kev

    Uh, I didn’t misinterpret Chris. He’s as susceptible to the racial (and racist) conditioning as any other American.

  • benlayvey

    OK the racial sensors need to be dialed down. So he forgot the man was black for a second, its his way of pointing out the racial boundaries Obama now transcends. Chris is merely now realizing what some of us already knew: that in Obama we see a black man who didn’t need affirmative action to be articulate and successful. Besides he only said what EVERYONE was thinking.

  • Oh Boy

    I thought this gay was Obama’s biggest cheerleader and supporter.

    Now the PC Police are accusing him too of racism.

    Everything is racist, the sky, the grass…it is like the new American pasttime. Rampantly accusing everyone else of this so no one can feel free to observe or say anything. I think it gives people a sense of piuos and rightous, maybe it has replaced church.

    I am sure he did not mean anything about it.

    Whatever, I am so over the PC police. I can’t be bothered anymore.

  • reason

    @Chitown Kev:

    Not sure what you are referring to, but I watch Chris on a fairly regular basis, and have heard him speak out against that conditioning. The danger is people become afraid to make a true comment because it involves race, you create a society were non racist people try to avoid race all together ie segregated church, hire some one of the same race because they don’t want to deal with any sort of racial backlash or discomfort.

    Chris had the guts to go there and attempt to make a comment about how proud he is that we are now having moments in this country were people are looking at the content of character, forgetting about race all together while watching the speech; now Chris is being eviscerated in public.

  • Michael W.

    @benlayvey: You’re right, he didn’t need affirmative action. Just straight up blind ambition to get some place where he doesn’t belong. Obama ran over large swaths of people, climbed over hordes of folks to get to the top job and now he doesn’t know what to do with it. He’s lost, he never governed or ran anything in his life (including his household where Michelle obviously wears the pants) and it shows more clearly with every day that goes by. He’s a weak, ineffectual leader and I’m disgusted with myself for supporting him. I want my fucking money back. I want my vote back, I want it all back! I fell for it; he jipped me!

    And this instance here exemplifies why he was able to fool us: because of morons like Chris Matthews who, instead of examining the lack of depth to his SOTU, want to sit around and blab about how post-racial he is. Ooooo, post-raciality, RACE NO MORE! Lmao! Shit like this is what went on all throughout that campaign in 2008 and I fell for it. Meanwhile Matthews probably thinks Obama’s empty, recycled rhetoric was “bold and commanding.” They all think he’s so wonderful and eloquent. You’ve got to turn to the Fox News Channel just to get an ounce of criticism!

  • Chitown Kev


    I’m not eviscerating Matthews at all, actually, but I might eviscerate you if you keep this up.

    First of all, if Matthews really forgot that Obama was black, then he wouldn’t have mentioned it at all. Indeed, “race” and racial conditioning is a part of “the content of his character” for all people (of whatever race)…Matthews is no exception to that and neither am I.

    And yes, talking about race IS likely to produce a lot of discomfort.

    And lastly, these statements have actually been said to my face on numerous occasions. How dare you imply that I haven’t the foggiest idea of some of the attitudes behind them; after all, I’ve heard those TOO.

    Some white people have felt comfortable in saying racist things to me because “I’m not like those other black people.”

  • Lukas P.

    @Michael W.: said “Obama ….never saw a hood.”
    Please explain. Were you referring to the KKK uniform, part of a sweatshirt, the top side of a car, a slang word meaning a conglomeration of housing units, or the shortened form of the word “hoodlum?”

    Is the act of seeing a “hood” a requisite to being or being perceived as African-American?

    Guys like you and Ex IL governor Blago love to say how “black” you are, but the difference is, you don’t face racism. You don’t get followed by security at the mall, get served last at a diner in rural Georgia,
    nor get passed over for promotions at work. People don’t automatically assume you’re good at sports, have served time, have a large penis, are Baptist, and can dance.
    Get the difference yet, Opie?

    P.s. The whole “thrill down my leg” line of Chris Matthews still makes me laugh out loud. Maybe he meant “tingle”?

  • schlukitz

    I’m stayin’ outta this one! lol

  • reason

    @Chitown Kev:

    Once again words are being misinterpreted, I am not implying that you were the eviscerator lol. I am making a general state of how this is being perceived by some, and the danger of not being able to speak about race even with good intentions.

    The status quo is to be silent and keep minorities invisible, Chris chose not to do this well aware of the pitfalls. He should be applauded, maybe he could have used simpler language or conveyed it differently, but who is not guilty of failing to convey an idea with clarity? I probably do it every day, apparently so in the last post granted you thought I was putting it on you. Does one think that the pundits on fox news were being quite because they had good intentions. Some people, fox, would rather keep anything having to do with racial progress under wraps, then pull out the trumpet when a minority does something wrong to fuel, I going to use a malapropism, dysentery among the groups.

    No one holds all the cards on race, or is the master of figuring out intent. Chris came back and made his intent clear, although I saw his intent the first time. He is a good guy give him the benefit of the doubt.

  • RomanHans

    > Chris was trying to convey the gravity of watching
    > an African American president address the nation
    > without race on most viewers minds just 45 years
    > after Jim Crow.

    Well then, here are some things a competent commentator could have said:

    — “Obama is truly taking his place as the uniter of a disparate nation tonight.”

    — “Though some of his critics thought his racial identity would define his politics, he seems intent on proving them wrong.”

    — “There’s no way around it: we have made great strides as a nation, because this is a smart guy who makes me proud to be American.”

    Sadly, I think these are closer to Chris’ thoughts:

    — “Wow! He sure talks good for a black dude!”

    — “This is incredible. If I didn’t see all that color, I just plain wouldn’t believe it!”

    — “I actually forgot the guy was a Negro! Forgot! Is that crazy or what?”

  • Chitown Kev

    @Lukas P.:

    “Is the act of seeing a “hood” a requisite to being or being perceived as African-American?”

    So it seems…

    Oh, and I’m black and from Detroit, do you know how often that people (of all races) in other parts of the country assume that I can sing?

    Then again, I guess there are moments that I can enjoy like…
    When I was in Maine volunteering for No On 1, we went to the gay bar after work. I was actually able to tell someone, “Damn, you dance more like a white boy than me!”

  • Chitown Kev


    “If I had listened to this speech on the radio, I never would have guessed that this was a black man.”

  • Chitown Kev


    No, here’s the problem.

    You think that I’m saying that Matthew’s comment makes him a racist.

    I say my words very precisely. I write my words with even far more precision (for the most part, but when I’m really angry, I’m liable to say anything).

    If I thought the comment was racist or that Matthews was racist, I would say. Exactly. that.

    I’m not exempt from the racial conditioning that I cite. Neither are you. No one born in America is.

    I’d agree with you that Matthews may have closely self-examined his racial attitudes.

    That doesn’t mean that he still isn’t conditioned by them…

  • Lukas P.

    @Chitown Kev: Thanks for understanding and sharing my humor about the ‘hood. And dancing.

  • reason


    This is not about race defining his politics it is about America as a nation getting to a point were they are judging a person on the content of his character at the most prestigious address to the nation. That is what Chris was talking about, no pundit on MSNBC that has been conscious for the past two years thought Obama’s policy would be geared to race.

    You obviously don’t watch Chris Matthews he was always harping on Obama’s intelligence, Harvard credentials, and how refreshing it would be to have an intellectual in the White House, how he was proud to be an American and witness this historic election etc. You act as if this is the first comment Chris made about Obama, he has been praising the guy since 2006.

  • reason

    @Chitown Kev:

    Maybe you need to elaborate on your definition of (racist) racial conditioning.

  • Lukas P.

    Ask yourselves this: do you prefer people to “remember” or “forget” that you’re a gay man [or woman]?

    Tough question, isn’t it?

  • schlukitz

    @ Lukas P.

    That’s an excellent question. And a challenging one, at that.

    As far as my civil-rights are concerned, which is the only I can make a comment on at the moment, I suspect that I would would rather that people forget that I am a gay man and treat me in the exact same manner that heterosexuals are treated, both socially and legally.

    I am an out and proud man, but as things stand at the moment, I am tired of being constantly reminded that my gayness makes me a second-class citizen in the country of my birth and the day-to-day awareness that this difference, keeps my Philippine partner and I from being at each other’s side.

  • reason

    @Lukas P.:
    Lol, when I am conducting business, or in serious mode I prefer the focus to be on the business at hand not my sexuality. But then again I am the type of guy that would do business with raging homophobes if it would increase the companies bottom line.

  • Chitown Kev


    OK…why can’t Matthews close his eyes and imagine that it WAS a black man speaking?

    After all, if there is one thing that African Americans are famous for (and this is a positive stereotype) it’s their oratorical skills.

    In this case, is it all simply the role of the presidency and public policy?

    Racist conditioning would be the beliefs about the “races” that are prevalent in society; the beliefs that we were raised with, that are embedded in our culture, that define what “America” is. I will admit, Matthews was spaking to that.

  • reason

    @Chitown Kev:

    Yes Matthews was speaking against that sort of conditioning, but that conditioning would result in someone with their eyes open saying what is this black man doing hear while not hearing a word he was saying. That would be bad. Matthews was saying the opposite happened, race was not a factor he saw a man speaking as the leader of his country.

    What he is definitely not!!! saying is oh this man is speaking so well and intelligently that it took me till the end to notice he was black. That would be nothing short of racist. One would have to twist his words viciously to get there. If that is the conclusion some are drawing they don’t know Chris + they must have had a very bad experience with race that has jaded them and for that I am truly sorry.

  • SG

    He needs to explain what he thinks when he’s aware that someone is black.

  • Chitown Kev


    Again, race is a factor, otherwise he wouldn’t say it.

    By the way, statements like that really don’t help; it’s OBVIOUS that every sees a black man. Matthews initial statement attempted to erase that a black man was even there.

    Or that a threatening black man was in any event.

  • MissLaWanda

    oh child, this is soooo racist! My weave is gonna fall off!

  • Dirty Ole Man


    Your #3 comment is the truth! I think most
    of the radical gays within the Gay Rights Groups
    are indeed racist! Some of my Black friends were called
    N**gger after the Prop 8 vote in Cali. And the comments here are
    borderline racist. Obama owes them NOTHING!

  • Dirty Ole Man

    Oh and for the record, Chris Matthews is not a racist.
    He’s one of the good ones. Leave him only Queerty!

  • reason

    @Chitown Kev:

    Why wouldn’t he say it? He is trying to make a point of how far this country has come. “He has gone a long way to become the leader of this country and past so much history. I mean it is something that we don’t even think about…” The factor is that this country has come so far that a lot of us don’t see race as a factor.

    I am sorry but when I watch the president I am focused on what he is saying not his skin tone. When I watched president Bush I was attempting to understand what he was saying not thinking oh this man is white. When I watch Rahm I am not think oh this Jewish man. When I saw Sotomayor I was wondering what she thought about the ruling not about her Latino heritage, when I saw Mitch McConnell I was thinking damn this man looks greedy not old white man.

    If I was to meet you somewhere I would not be think oh my I wonder if he is like Obama I will judge you as you. That was MLK’s dream, and that is what this country has been striving to fulfill. Chris is talking about not being defined by race, religion, ethnicity, but being defined by you. “You don’t think about the old tribalism the old ethnicity” he is even referencing his heritage in the olden days there was sign saying no Irish no dogs allowed. JFK was a historic president there was a time when people thought an Irish man could not get elected. Chris is a historian, during his show he is always thinking about and referencing history, attempting to put things in a historical context; this is one of the reasons I enjoy watching his show.

  • reason

    I was offended by the link title so I did not read the site, so what ever you are trying to get across with that you are going to have to write it out.

  • Martin

    Listen to Matthews I don’t think that comment was racist.

    I think there was a period where everyone was “Wow, we have are first Black President” and that was on people minds (wither it made you happy or if a your a racist scared)

    But I think mood has passed and he’s just the president (who happens to be Black or mixed for those who want to draw straws)
    or at least it slightly moved on, it’s still unique enough that we have a POTUS that happens to be African-American

  • schlukitz

    No. 46 · Dirty Ole Man

    Obama owes them NOTHING!

    Then he should not have promised us ANYTHING.

    Doing so and then not delivering, only serves to make him a disingenuous liar.

  • StudSlut

    is he cut or uncut?

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