Soledad O’Brien lectures ‘naive’ journalists ‘thug’ is the new ‘n-word’ – you can’t use it

Controversy over the use of the word “thug” in the wake of the Baltimore riots continued Sunday with former CNN host Soledad O’Brien weighing in to claim the word has racial overtones.

“I can’t think of a situation where there’s ever been a headline or someone has called a white young person who’s in the middle of a violent protest, demonstration, whatever, a thug,” she told guest host Frank Sesno on “Reliable Sources.” “We use it all the time when we’re talking about people in the inner city.”

Sesno pointed out that no racial connotation s given in the dictionary definition of the word and that the word was also used by President Obama and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

“Doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t have a specific agenda in how they’re using it,” she said. “Richard Sherman who — plays for the Seattle Seahawks, he really said like, listen ‘it’s the new n-word,’ and I think that’s true.”

She added that the word “thug” doesn’t accurately describe events.

“I think there’s violent protesters, I think there’s peaceful protesters, I think there’s drunk protesters, I think there’s angry protesters. I think when you look specifically about how the word ‘riot’ is used, and the word ‘thug’ is used, it’s always used around people of color, specifically in an inner-city context,” she said.

“I can only comment on how I think journalists should think about a word that actually doesn’t have a lot of nuance and isn’t specific, but somehow seems to be used a lot when you’re talking about African-Americans.”

O’Brien repeated her comments on Twitter and was met with both support and opposition.


Confused protester: When I was in the Marines, they called me a patriot, now they call me a thug.

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Carmine Sabia


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