Jill Stein's VP doubles down on calling Obama "Uncle Tom" in truly wild town hall

Jill Stein's VP doubles down on calling Obama "Uncle Tom" in truly wild town hall
Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

Jill Stein's vice presidential running mate, Ajamu Baraka, defended his decision to call President Barack Obama an "Uncle Tom president," saying he "stands by" his choice to use the racially charged slur he's used to describe America's first black president.

The moment came Wednesday night during CNN's Green Party town hall, when moderator Chris Cuomo asked Baraka why he has used the term "Uncle Tom" to criticize Obama's presidency. 

"There are legitimate arguments to be made," Cuomo said about Obama's presidency. "But you called him an Uncle Tom. Now that's a little bit different than making legitimate arguments."

But Baraka defended using the slur — a term defined by Merriam-Webster's dictionary as a black person "overeager to win the approval of whites" — by saying he used it while speaking to a "specialized audience who understood the context and reason why I framed it in that way."

Cuomo, however, wasn't having that argument.

"Is there any good context?" Cuomo asked Baraka of the term.

"What I wanted to do was basically to tell people who had this hope in Barack Obama, that if we were concerned and serious about how we could displace white power, we had to demystify the policies and the positions of this individual," Baraka said. "So that was how it got framed, to shock people into a more critical look at this individual, and that's how I did it, and I stand by that."

Cuomo then turned to Stein to ask whether she agrees with her running mate's decision to use a slur against Obama.

Stein did not disavow Baraka's response, giving a vague answer with buzzwords.

"I am so grateful that we have an opportunity to go beyond sound bites," Stein said. "And I understand Ajamu's passion, his frustration and his struggle. And I also understand his transcendence and the way in which this is a challenge to us all right now — to both feel the passion of our struggle but also to be capable of transcending it and connecting with each other, healing our wounds and forging a bigger vision and a bigger community."

She went on to say that she's "worked with Ajamu for years" and that she has "never heard him use derogatory language."

Twitter was aghast at the exchange, with many calling Baraka's use of the term "disgusting," and criticizing Stein for standing by her running mate's use of the epithet.

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Emily C. Singer

Emily C. Singer, née Cahn, is a senior writer for Mic covering politics. She is based in New York and can be reached at esinger@mic.com

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