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White House Defends Larry Wilmore’s N-word Joke at WHCD, President Appreciated ‘Spirit of Expressions’

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The Root

The White House has issued an explanation for Larry Wilmore’s controversial joke at President Barack Obama’s last White House Correspondents’ Dinner. The event, held April 30 in Washington, D.C. was hosted by the host of Comedy Central’s “The Nightly Show.”

American Urban Radio Networks, reports Josh Earnest, a press secretary for the White House said the leader of the free world “appreciated the spirit of Mr. Wilmore’s expressions on Saturday night.”

When Wilmore wrapped up his 20-minute speech that evening, he mentioned America’s progress in electing the first Black president.

“When I was a kid, I lived in a country where people couldn’t accept a black quarterback. Now think about that. A black man was thought by his mere color not good enough to lead a football team — and now, to live in your time, Mr. President, when a black man can lead the entire free world.”

He continues, saying, “Words alone do me no justice. So, Mr. President, if I’m going to keep it 100: Yo, Barry, you did it, my n—–. You did it.”

Earnest told the radio company it was understandable that the comedian used the n-word and other racial epithets in order to describe an imaginary comment by Andrew Jackson about Ben Carson, and then in reference to Obama.

But he said the reaction was “an eerie, awkward silence and quietness.” Earnest added that many guests “were appalled. Even members of the Republican Party, black Republicans, were upset.”

Even still, the president didn’t have any issues with the remark when the press secretary spoke to him May 2. Earnest feels the joke was expected for a comedian in that kind of setting.

“Any comedian who’s signed up to follow President Obama at the White House correspondents’ dinner is assuming one of the most difficult tasks in comedy. Just by the nature of the engagement, that’s a tough job, following the president of the United States,” Earnest said to AURN. He added that comedians can be expected to “go right up to the line” of provocativeness.

“It’s not the first time in the Monday after the correspondents’ dinner, that some people have observed that the comedian at the dinner crossed the line,” he said.

Earnest also denounces claims that Wilmore used the president as the butt of the joke.

“I’m confident that Mr. Wilmore used the word by design. He was seeking to be provocative. But I think any reading of his comments makes it clear he was not using the president as a butt of a joke.”

The president is known for his humor too. At the 2014 WHCD,  Atlanta Blackstar reports Obama made jokes about his then declining poll numbers and mentioned his daughter Sasha in jest.

“I did notice the other day that Sasha needed a speaker at career day and she invited Bill Clinton. I was a little hurt by that.”

He also tackled race but used the word “negro” instead of the n-word. Obama referenced Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who commented that Blacks were better off in slavery.

“As a general rule, things don’t end well when the sentence starts, “Let me tell you a little something I know about the Negro.’ You don’t really need to hear the rest of it. Just a tip for you. Don’t start your sentence that way.”

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