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Larry Wilmore Defends Use Of “Colloquialism” At Correspondents’ Dinner

Updated with video: Larry Wilmore kicked off The Nightly Show tonight explaining he had not called President Obama a “n**ger” at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Wilmore said he had called him a “n**ga.” After which, Wilmore then attacked Mail Online’s U.S. editor-at-large Piers Morgan for having failed to properly “conjugate the slur” in his column about Wilmore’s widely panned WHCD performance.

“I hosted little dinner party. With a few friends — me, Don Lemon, the president. My boys! And I’m wrapping up my little speech and giving the president some props, telling him how much I appreciated him being the first black president. And then I buttoned it with a little, um, let’s say, colloquialism.”

Reaction to the last line of his speech was mixed, “like the president himself,” he joked.

“Seriously, though, I completely understand why some people would be upset about it. It’s a very charged word. I get it.”

Pivoting sharply, Wilmore said there was one particular critique from across the pond that brings up “a very important distinction.”

He read Morgan’s column, which quoted Wilmore as saying, “Yo, Barry, you did it, my n**ger,” at the annual roast.

“Now, hold on. Are you saying I called the president a ‘n**ger’? That’s horrible! I would never do that. I believe I said, “Yo Barry, You did it, my n**ga. There’s s difference. Piers, you did not properly conjugate that slur. Very important. ‘N**ger’ is what white people use to denigrate, demean and dehumanize black people. And ‘n**ga’ is a term of endearment some black people use between each other, to take back that power.”

Wilmore forgot to tell his viewers Morgan wasn’t the only columnist who had scorched him for using the word during his WHCD set. WaPo’s editorial board member who is a black man, also excoriated Wilmore’s speech, saying, “Now, if there are things white people should not say, then there are definitely things black people should not say…African Americans know there are things that should never be said outside the safe cultural confines of the barbershop, beauty shop, backyard barbecue or momma’s house. Nothing exemplifies this better than two of the last words of Larry Wilmore’s disaster of a nerd prom performance.”

Hey, speaking of Don Lemon, remember that time, last June, when he was trending on Twitter after kicking off CNN Tonight by holding up a Confederate flag and then a sign on which was printed, in letters about half a foot tall, the same “colloquialism”? Lemon’s stunt had followed Obama giving an interview for the podcast WTF with Marc Maron, in which Obama had said, “Racism, we are not cured of it. And it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say n**ger in public. That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not.” Obama made the remarks after a white supremacist murdered nine African-Americans in an historically black church in Charleston.

“Does this offend you? This word?” Lemon asked, hopefully, as he teased his show’s upcoming topic with his made-for-social-media sign.

That night, Wilmore had reacted to Lemon’s segment by showing the CNN host his own race cardLarry Wilmore smaller.  In his funny take-down of Lemon, Wilmore initially declined to say the other “conjugation” of the word on his Comedy Central late-night show, opting instead for the cautious “N Word.”

“Wow! You went literal race card! Oh my gosh! Phew!” Wilmore emoted while fanning himself, as if Lemon’s card was giving him the vapors. “You want to see what really offends me,” Wilmore said of Lemon’s sign, holding up one of his own.

“Hey Don! I know a better N word you should focus on: news,” Wilmore said.

Getting back to Wilmore’s first post-WHCD show, having concluded the conversation about conjugating the colloquialism, this happened:

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