Clyburn Says Newt Gingrich Is Using Coded Racial Language

On the campaign trail, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has repeatedly referred to President Obama as a food stamps president. Many have claimed the comment, and others, are dog whistles for “ugly racial stereotypes” and are insulting to African Americans.

This morning, Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), the highest-ranking African American in the House, told CNN’s Candy Crowley this morning that he would not call Newt Gingrich a racist, but said the presidential candidate has been using language that appeals to those in the GOP who “will see President Obama as different from all other presidents that we’ve had.” Crowley asked if the term “food stamps president” was a racial comment. Clyburn replied that it’s similar to other racially-coded comments that are not explicitly racist:


CROWLEY: Is that necessarily a racist comment?

CLYBURN: It’s not necessarily so, but a welfare queen being uttered by Ronald Reagan is not necessarily a comment…but people know what that means. […] All of this carries certain connotations that people know very, very well, and I think [Gingrich] practiced that perfectly.

Watch Clyburn’s answer here:

During a debate earlier this month, Gingrich said he did not see why making food stamps a racial issue was insulting. He has said the African American community should be asking for paychecks, not food stamps, but in reality, most food stamps recipients are white. Nonetheless, he agreed to meet with black leaders yesterday to explain himself.