N-ggerhead Takes Off on CNN: ‘Can a Candidate Recover Once They've Been Associated With a Controversy Over the Word N-gger?’

The folks at the Washington Post got exactly what they wanted with Sunday’s racially charged, 3000-word, front page hit piece about Texas governor Rick Perry.

CNN did two segments on N-ggerhead Sunday evening, one with host Don Lemon asking his guests, “Can a candidate recover once they've been associated with a controversy over the word n-gger?” (video follows with transcript and commentary):

 


DON LEMON, CNN: OK. So, listen, it is difficult to imagine a more poisonous word in the English language than nigger, which is why many are taken aback to learn the word once adorned a hunting camp used by Texas Governor Rick Perry and his family. The camp used to be called Niggerhead. The word painted large in a rock at the entrance. Perry's family leased the camp and he said he hasn't been there since 2006. The camp name has been changed and the rock painted over. But when that happened exactly is a matter of dispute between Perry's people and the "Washington Post" which published a lengthy article on it just today.

So, that word sounds outrageously backward in today's world. But in eras past, it was often used for land formations like hills and rocks. That's according to "The Post." Herman Cain, one of Perry's presidential rivals, doesn't care for the connotation in any form.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My reaction is, that's just very insensitive. That is in a much -- that is in a more vile, negative word than the "N" word and for him to leave it there as long as he did before I hear that they finally painted over it is just plain insensitive to a lot of black people in this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: All right. I want to talk more about this with CNN contributor Will Cain and LZ Granderson, a CNN.com contributor and senior writer at ESPN.

I don't want to get in to when the word was painted over, when the rock was moved, or what have you. We are saying the word for a reason because I think if you don't say it, you actually sanitize it, right?

So, LZ, how big of an issue is this for Perry?

LZ GRANDERSON, CNN.COM CONTRIBUTOR: I think it's huge. I don't see how you can stand on the stage across from President Obama, the first African-American president, with nigger hanging over your head, which is essentially what this story will be for him. This is the reason why this is -- this is among other reasons why Chris Christie is still trying to be wooed because Rick Perry has a lot of these types of skeletons in his closet and the GOP knows that once he gets in front of Barack Obama by himself, these types of stories are going to come out and derail his campaign.

LEMON: OK. So, we have said, you know, in the context of "The Post," that it was used for rock formations and it is a part of our nation's history. And there were other names that word was used in.

So, Will, I'm wondering how does a candidate recover -- can a candidate recover once they've been associated with a controversy over the word "nigger."

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I don't know if they can, Don. And that's why I think we all need to be very careful here. It's so powerful this word that in 2006 when George Allen was running for senator of Virginia, he used the word macaca, a word that nobody had ever heard, that is basically some French derivation of an African slang term that has the same weight, the same connotation. So, this word is so powerful, Don. It's such an atomic bomb on a campaign that I just think we need to be very careful, and very responsible about how we treat this story. You know that "Washington Post" story was full of anonymous sources. It was full of speculation, and I just don't know that I want to be a pundit that goes on TV and speculates about this any further. I think these are questions for Rick Perry to answer at this point.

LEMON: I think that is a good point of view to have. But the question was, being -- I just said being associated in a controversy, whether it's true or not -- I mean, that's tough to recover from.

CAIN: It's so tough to recover, Don, that might not be able to be recoverable, and that's why I'm saying we need to be careful about associating it. We just need to make sure we got everything right here.

LEMON: All right.

Readers are advised that the offensive words in the above transcript that are at the heart of this media-made controversy were intentionally uncensored to bring attention to them not being censored by CNN.

As Lemon observed, "We are saying the word for a reason because I think if you don't say it, you actually sanitize it, right?"

So for this story, the folks at CNN felt it was important to enunciate the entire offensive epithet despite it being "difficult to imagine a more poisonous word in the English language." 

It was also interesting for CNN's Cain to note the similarity to Allen's macaca controversy in 2006, and to therefore caution the host, "It's such an atomic bomb on a campaign that I just think we need to be very careful, and very responsible about how we treat this story...We just need to make sure we got everything right here."

But Lemon clearly wasn't interested in that.

Quite the contrary, he early on told his guests, "I don't want to get in to when the word was painted over, when the rock was moved, or what have you."

No, let's not discuss any of the facts concerning this issue like whether the Perrys owned or leased the property, or how long ago they painted over the word and eventually turned the rock over so it wouldn't be visible. Let's skip all those inconvenient details and instead discuss how devastating this is to Perry.

Lemon further tipped his hand when he pushed back on Cain's note of caution saying, "I just said being associated in a controversy, whether it's true or not -- I mean, that's tough to recover from."

"Whether it's true or not."

So Lemon wasn't concerned with the truth. He instead wanted to know how Perry recovers from a controversy irrespective of the facts.

This from the self-proclaimed "Most trusted name in news."

Makes you wonder if the Washington Post is hanging a "Mission Accomplished" banner in its newsroom this morning.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.