Memorandum To Tony Snow On The Use Of The Term ‘Tar Baby’

Date: May 16, 2006
To: White House Press Secretary Tony Snow
From: ThinkProgress.org

Re: The use of the term “tar baby”

Today in your first press briefing you referred to the term “tar baby” on two occasions:

SNOW: Having said that, I don’t want to hug the tar baby of trying to comment on the program, the alleged program, the existence of which I can neither confirm nor deny.


QUESTION: What are your personal goals? What do you hope to achieve here? Will you continue to televise these briefings? And would you put into English the phrase (OFF-MIKE) the tarbaby?

SNOW: Well, I believe hug the tarbaby, we could trace that back to American lore.

Based on the context of the term, we believe you meant tar baby to mean: “a situation almost impossible to get out of; a problem virtually unsolvable.”

But in “American lore,” the expression tar baby is also a racial slur “used occasionally as a derogatory term for black people.” Use of the term has resulted in demands that people be fired.

As Random House notes, “some people suggest avoiding the use of the term in any context.” Now that you are no longer at Fox News, you may want to take them up on their advice.

UPDATE: Check out Crooks and Liars to watch the video of Snow’s comments.

UPDATE: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated that the articles above described people being fired for using the term “tar baby.” The articles described demands that people be fired. We regret the error.