Sharpton: Larry Wilmore’s calling Obama the ‘N-word’ was in ‘bad taste’

Comedian Larry Wilmore speaks during the White House Correspondents' Assn. annual dinner at the Washington Hilton hotel.

Comedian Larry Wilmore speaks during the White House Correspondents’ Assn. annual dinner at the Washington Hilton hotel.

(Pool / Getty Images)

Larry Wilmore’s use of the N-word to President Obama at end of his White House Correpsondents’ dinner performance received the stamp of disapproval from the Rev. Al Sharpton.

“Many of us are against using the N-word period,” Sharpton told the Times at MSNBC’s after party that followed the event at the Washington Hilton. “But to say that to the President of the United States in front of the top people in media was at best in poor taste.”

Wilmore, the host of Comedy Central’s “The Nightly Show,” used the term at the close of his comedy monologue at the annual glittery gathering of politicians, journalists, celebrities and dignitaries. He ended his 20 minutes of barbs with sincere personal remarks about what it means to see a black president in his lifetime.


“When I was a kid I lived in a country where people couldn’t accept a black quarterback,” Wilmore said. “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. Words alone do me no justice. So, Mr. President, I’m going to keep it a hundred. Yo Barry, you did it, my n---a.”

Wimore pounded his chest in a “peace out” gesture. Obama returned the gesture, laughed and rose from his seat to shake Wilmore’s hand.

Sharpton, president of the National Action Network and an MSNBC host, said Wilmore’s comic monologue at the dinner “was all right until he dropped the N-word.”

The appropriateness of Wilmore’s use of the term immediately generated debate on social media. Sharpton acknowledged that public discourse about it will likely be ongoing in the coming days.

“I think he was trying to in his own way to act like he was relating,” Sharpton said. “But relating to who? Or what? I really didn’t like it.”


Wilmore’s performance, which followed the president’s well-received jokes, aired live on C-SPAN and all three cable news networks, which all televised the dinner.

Twitter: @SteveBattaglio


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