Bette Midler has apologized for paraphrasing the title of a 1972 John Lennon-Yoko Ono song — Midler wrote “N-word,” John & Yoko spelled it out — in an angry tweet Thursay about the “too brief investigation” into Brett Kavanaugh.
Midler’s apology reads: “The too brief investigation of allegations against Kavanaugh infuriated me. Angrily I tweeted w/o thinking my choice of words would be enraging to black women who doubly suffer, both by being women and by being black. I am an ally and stand with you; always have. And I apologize.”
The original post read “Women are the n-word of the world, raped, beaten, enslaved married off, worked like dumb animals; denied education and inheritance; enduring the pain and danger of childbirth and life IN SILENCE for THOUSANDS of years They are the most disrespected creatures on earth.”
Midler deleted the tweet after three hours, then posted another explaining, “I gather I have offended many by my last tweet. ‘Women are the…etc.’ is a quote from Yoko Ono from 1972, which I never forgot. It rang true then, and it rings true today, whether you like it or not. This is not about race, this is about the status of women; THEIR HISTORY.”
That tweet, too, was deleted after considerable Twitter backlash and before she offered the third tweet, with its more direct apology.
Midler’s original tweet quoted – or rather paraphrased – the Lennon-Ono song “Woman Is the N*gger Of The World,” which appeared on the duo’s 1972 album Some Time in New York City. It was released as a single in the U.S. but was the lowest-charting 45 of Lennon’s lifetime.
Ono had used the phrase publicly as early as 1969, and she and Lennon performed the controversial anthem on a 1972 episode of The Dick Cavett Show. Prior to the performance, Cavett, at ABC’s insistence, read an apology should viewers take offense. (Many years later, the talk show host said he considered the apology “ludicrous,” and that subsequent viewer letters opposed not the song but Cavett’s “mealy-mouthed statement.”)
The song’s lyrics include the repeated chorus:
Woman is the n*gger of the world, yes she is
If you don’t believe me take a look to the one you’re with
Woman is the slave to the slaves
Yes she is, if you believe me, you better scream about it
Responses to Midler’s use of the phrase, though, stand in stark contrast to the ’72 reactions. Here are a few: