Jesse Jackson on Obama: “Wanna Cut His Nuts Off”
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Article by Pamela Gentry, Black Entertainment Television Senior Political Producer
The Rev. Jesse Jackson is no stranger to controversy, media spotlight or the ground rules when speaking with the press. But if he had forgotten, his latest slip of the tongue will serve as a pungent reminder to remember past lessons.
On Sunday, while in the FOX News studio waiting to be interviewed, Jackson leaned over to another guest, Reed V. Tuckson, the former chief medical officer for the District of Columbia and President of the Charles Drew University in Los Angeles, and whispered, “Barack has been talking down to Black people. …I want to cut his nuts off.” In a rapid response, the founder of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition issued a statement denouncing the “crude” nature of his comments and apologized to the presumptive Democratic nominee.
“I apologize,” Rev. Jackson said Wednesday. “My support for Senator Obama’s campaign is wide, deep and unequivocal. I cherish this redemptive and historical moment. My appeal was for the moral content of his message, to not only deal with the personal and moral responsibility of Black males, but to deal with the collective moral responsibility of government and the public policy which would be a corrective action for the lack of good choices that often led to their irresponsibility.”
Still, his actions brought swift rejection from the civil rights leader’s son, Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-Ill.), the national co-chairman of Obama’s presidential campaign. In rallying behind his candidate, he proved that political alliances can be stronger than family ties. “I’m deeply outraged and disappointed in Reverend Jackson’s reckless statements about Senator Barack Obama. His divisive and demeaning comments about the presumptive Democratic nominee – and I believe the next president of the United States – contradict his inspiring and courageous career,” Jackson Jr. wrote in a statement.
Jackson said his comments were in reference to visits Obama has made to Black churches during his campaign, at which the 46-year-old senator has said Black folks are responsible for their families and their communities. While Jackson has also been outspoken about Black America’s responsibility to play an active role in improving its plight, he has been careful to highlight the government’s responsibility to provide equal opportunity and racial justice.
But, Jackson knows that everything one says while wearing a microphone in a television studio is on the record. He also knows that a careless remark – even one he thought was off the record – can be costly. After all, it was his clumsy reference to Jews as “Hymies” and New York as “Hymietown” during his 1984 presidential bid that nearly destroyed his lifelong work within the Jewish community. And his gaffe late last year about Obama “acting White” perhaps revealed Jackson’s latent belief that the Illinois senator’s political perspective was out of line with that of the traditional civil rights establishment.
Granted, this was a careless move on Jackson’s part, but I also know it was not intended to do harm to the Obama’s shot at being commander and chief. After hearing his comments had been recorded, Jackson appeared on CNN to publicly apologize, issued a statement to the press and called the senator’s office with his apology.
His immediate actions may slow his roll on political chatter, but what it won’t stop speculation about some underlying dissention among old-school Black leadership regarding Obama’s candidacy. The topic wasn’t on the radar before this and support for Obama appeared unwavering.
Bill Burton, spokesman for the Obama campaign, suggested that the brouhaha was being blown out of proportion. “Of course” the senator accepts the reverends apology, he said. Jackson’s son’s wasn’t so forgiving. “Reverend Jackson is my dad and I’ll always love him,” he said But, “he should know how hard that I’ve worked for the last year and a half as a national co-chair of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. So, I thoroughly reject and repudiate his ugly rhetoric. He should keep hope alive and any personal attacks and insults to himself.” Whew, I bet the next family dinner will be a bit tense at the Jackson’s house.