At Monday’s daily briefing for reporters, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the president told him “he appreciated the spirit of the sentiments that Mr. Wilmore expressed.”
“Any reading of his comments made clear that he was not using the president as a butt of a joke,” Earnest added. “I take Mr. Wilmore at this words that he found that to be a powerful transformation just in his lifetime and something he seemed to be pretty obviously proud of.”
The comedian faced some backlash for the closing cry of his WHCD act – “Yo, Barry, you did it, my n—a!” – with Rev. Al Sharpton calling it “at best in poor taste” and former CNN host Piers Morgan writing that, “By calling the first black president of the United States a ‘n—-r’ on national TV, Larry Wilmore let down Barack Obama, and himself…”
Wilmore addressed the criticism Monday night on his Comedy Central program The Nightly Show, saying, “I completely understand why people would be upset. It’s a very charged word – I get it.”
He added that Morgan had misquoted him by saying Wilmore used the word “n—-r,” which he said is “what white people use to denigrate, demean and dehumanize black people.”
Instead, Wilmore said he used the word ending in “a,” which is a “term of endearment some black people use between each other to take back that power” of the word.
“That’s horrible! I would never do that,” he continued. “Piers, you did not properly conjugate that slur. Very important.”