Is Michele Bachmann's "tar baby" blast of President Obama a racial slur? [VIDEO]
During a Wednesday interview with The Shark Tank, a Florida-based conservative blog, Michele Bachmann said that President Obama's recent effort to crack down on oil speculators is akin to "waving a tar baby in the air."
"Tar baby" is a racially charged, controversial phrase that has gotten politicians in trouble before. In 2006, Mitt Romney used the term to reference Boston's Big Dig construction project. He later apologized. John McCain apologized after using the term in 2007, and Republican Colorado Rep. Doug Lamborn apologized last year for saying working with Obama is "like touching a tar baby."
The Oxford English Dictionary (but not the print version of its American counterpart) defines "tar baby" as a derogatory term used for "a black or a Maori."
The term originates from folklore. In Joel Chandler Harris' Uncle Remus stories, the meaning of "tar baby" was pretty literal -- it was associated with "sticky situation." But Urban Dictionary notes that the racist connotation of "tar baby" comes from a children's story in which the dark skin and seeming ignorance of slaves was explained by the idea that black children were baptized in tar, which made them dark and dumb. Granted, Urban Dictionary isn't the most reputable source when it comes to deciding the meaning of words, but "tar baby" has unquestionably acquired a racist flavor over the years.
Here's video of the Bachmann interview. Her controversial remarks begin just after 1:45:
And here's a transcript of just her "tar baby" comment:
This is just about waiving a tar baby in the air and saying that something else is a problem. I have never seen a more irresponsible President who is infantile in the way that he continually blames everyone else for his failure to first diagnose the problem and second to address the problem.
The Miami New Times, comparing Bachmann's gaffe with Romney's, speculates that Michele's use of the term could perhaps be even more controversial. "She's discussing the policies of an African-American president, and then just one sentence later characterizes President Obama as baby-like himself by calling him 'infantile,'" the New Times notes.
Bachmann has not yet responded to the firestorm of publicity her remarks have generated.
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