President Obama raised eyebrows and garnered quite a bit of criticism Monday morning when he used the N-word during an interview with comedian and podcast host Marc Maron.
“Racism — we are not cured of it. And it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say n– in public,” said the president (who used the full racial slur) while talking to Maron during a discussion of the Charleston shooting and the events of the last week and the work that still needs to be done to combat racial prejudices.
The White House later said that the president stood by his use of the word. “The president’s use of the word and the reason he used the word could not be more apparent,” said White House spokesperson Josh Earnest.
While reporters may have been surprised to hear that word come out of the president’s mouth in 2015, it’s also notable that Obama is probably the only president in the history of the country to use the word in a not-racist way. Metro has compiled a list of Presidents who are known to have used to slur as a matter of public record. (Please note that this list is in no way comprehensive.)
Harry Truman: While Harry S. Truman, the war hero who became president after FDR, signed the executive order that integrated the army in 1948, he was known to use the n-word frequently in private, even writing a letter to his wife Bess that managed to insult black Americans and the Chinese simultaneously.
Lyndon Johnson: While Johnson is rightly hailed for signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, his relationship with African-Americans was far more complicated. Johnson’s biographer Robert Caro has written extensively on LBJ’s casual and frequent use of the word and how, in 1957, LBJ called the civil rights bill of that year the “n– bill.”
Richard Nixon: Anyone who has listened to the tapes Nixon recorded throughout his presidency knows his private comments were peppered with disparaging references to ethnic groups of all kinds — including African-Americans, Jews, Asians and Indians. “They gave the money to the n–s,” was just one example of how the impeached president used the word, this time in a conversation with an aide in 1971.