Barack Obama's use of the phrase "typical white person" on a local radio station yesterday wound up making waves from Huffington Post to YouTube to Larry King Live.
King, with Obama as a guest, asked: "Do you think all this might hurt your campaign?"
Yesterday morning on WIP (610-AM), during a prearranged interview with host Angelo Cataldi, Obama responded to a question about Tuesday's major speech on race at the National Constitution Center.
In the speech, the Democratic candidate spoke of his white grandmother "who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe."
On WIP, Obama said: "The point I was making was not that my grandmother harbors any racial animosity. She doesn't. But she is a typical white person who, if she sees somebody on the street that she doesn't know, there's a reaction that's been bred into our experiences that don't go away, and that sometimes come out in the wrong way, and that's just the nature of race in our society."
Cataldi did no follow up on Obama's choice of words, and went on to other topics in the five-minute conversation.
Then the reactions started.
"We doubt this story will have legs, but wonder if Hillary Clinton referred to a 'typical black person,' would we ever hear the end of it?" Dan Gross of the Philadelphia Daily News wrote on his PhillyGossip blog.
"Seriously, Barack Obama basically called all white people racist. ... Is this guy kidding?" wrote Taylor Marsh on Huffington Post in midafternoon.
WIP host Howard Eskin, known for having strong opinions, said he was offended by the remark during his 3 p.m. show, at one point repeatedly asking a caller, who had identified himself as African American, if he was "a typical black person."
"Obama 'Typical White Person' Racist Interview" was a headline on an excerpt posted on YouTube.
Larry King referred to the WIP interview and Obama's 86-year-old grandmother during an interview with the candidate last night: "You called her today a typical white person, meaning what, Senator?
Obama replied: "Well, what I meant really was that some of the fears of street crime and some of the stereotypes that go along with that were responses that I think many people feel. She's not extraordinary in that regard. She is somebody that I love as much as anybody. I mean, she has literally helped to raise me. But those are fears that are embedded in our culture, and embedded in our society, and even within our own families, even within a family like mine that is diverse."
As to whether Obama's campaign might suffer some damage because of the remark, the senator didn't say yes or no, but expressed confidence that Americans can talk honestly about complicated issues and that "if we're not trying to demonize each other, that we can solve problems."
A New York Daily blog also weighed in. "This has turned into a pretty poor day for Barack Obama, capped by him saying his grandmother is afraid of black people not out of racial animosity, but because she is a 'typical white person,'" wrote Michael McAuliff and Michael Saul.
In an update, the blog quoted a clarification from Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt: "Barack Obama said specifically that he didn't believe his grandmother harbored any racial animosity but that her fears were understandable and typical of those often shared by her generation."
This morning, host Angelo Cataldi sounded amused by all the controversy, remarking, "Only now do I know he was really just calling to give us his NCAA picks. ... I'm asking him about his white grandmother, and he wanted to talk about UCLA, about Duke against Belmont. What a disaster!"
Then he said his own mother called yesterday to rib him about helping Hillary Clinton.
Cohost Al Morganti said CNN invited him to comment on the air, but the cable network changed its mind because he thought the subject was "no big deal."
Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or email@example.com.