3/22/08 Phila. Inquirer B03
2008 WLNR 5567639
Philadelphia Inquirer (PA)
Copyright 2008 The (PA)
March 22, 2008
Sen. Barack Obama's description of his grandmother as a "typical
white person" in an interview with WIP (610 AM) wound up making
waves from the online Huffington Post to YouTube and Larry King
In Thursday's interview with host Angelo Cataldi, the Democrat
from Illinois responded to a question about the speech on race he
delivered earlier in the week at the National Constitution Center.
In the speech, Obama said his white grandmother "once
confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street." He
also said she "on more than one occasion has uttered racial
or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe."
"The point I was making was not that my grandmother harbors any
racial animosity," Obama said on WIP. "She doesn't.
But she is a typical white person who, if she sees somebody on the
street that she doesn't know, there's a reaction that's been bred
into our experiences that don't go away, and that sometimes comes
out in the wrong way, and that's just the nature of race in our
Cataldi did no follow-up on Obama's choice of words and went on
to other topics in the five-minute conversation. The conversation
was quickly written about online ( http://go.philly.com/wipobama )
and soon was offered as a podcast at www.610wip.com.
Then the reactions started.
"We doubt this story will have legs, but wonder if Hillary
Clinton referred to a 'typical black person,' would we ever hear the
end of it?" Dan Gross of the Philadelphia Daily News wrote on his
"Seriously, Barack Obama basically called all white people
racist. ... Is this guy kidding?" wrote Taylor Marsh on the
Huffington Post in midafternoon.
WIP host Howard Eskin, known for having strong opinions, said
during his 3 p.m. show that he was offended by the remark, at one
point repeatedly asking a caller who had identified himself as
African American if he was "a typical black person."
"Obama 'Typical White Person' Racist Interview" was a headline on
an excerpt posted on YouTube.
On Thursday night, Larry King referred to the comments on WIP
during an interview with Obama: "You called her today 'a typical
white person,' meaning what, Senator?"
"Well, what I meant really was that some of the fears of street
crime and some of the stereotypes that go along with that were
responses that I think many people feel," Obama replied. "She's not
extraordinary in that regard. She is somebody that I love as much as
anybody. I mean, she has literally helped to raise me. But those are
fears that are embedded in our culture, and embedded in our society,
and even within our own families, even within a family like mine
that is diverse."
Asked whether his campaign might suffer some damage because of
the remark, the senator did not directly respond but expressed
confidence that Americans could talk honestly about complicated
issues and that "if we're not trying to demonize each other, that we
can solve problems."
Yesterday morning, Cataldi sounded amused by all the controversy.
"Only now do I know he was really just calling to give us his NCAA
picks. . . . I'm asking him about his white grandmother and he
wanted to talk about UCLA, about Duke against Belmont. What a
Then he said his own mother called yesterday to rib him about
helping Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Cohost Al Morganti said that CNN invited him to comment on the
air, but that the cable network changed its mind because he thought
the subject was "no big deal."
Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or