President Obama did not plan to use the n-word in his interview with comedian Marc Maron, but he doesn’t regret the word choice either.
“As is as evident from the conversation, it was a free-flowing conversation,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told ABC News' Jonathan Karl at Monday’s press briefing. "It was pretty wide-ranging, and there was no decision made on the part of anybody here at the White House that we are going to capitalize on this audio interview from somebody's garage in California, that this would be an opportune time for him to get this particular point off his chest."
Although the president’s word choice was unconventional in the interview on Maron's "WTF" podcast, Earnest said, the point he was making was “entirely consistent” with a message he has made numerous times on race relations -- that although much progress has been made in recent decades, “we’re not cured” of the “legacy of slavery” and Jim Crow.
"It’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say n***** in public,” the president told Maron. “That's not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It's not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don't, overnight, completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior."
While the president said the history of slavery still “casts a long shadow” on American society, he also reflected on the progress that’s been made.
“Progress is real, and we have to take hope from that progress, but what is also real is the march is not yet over,” the president said. “And the work is not yet completed and then our job is to find in very concrete ways what more can we do.”
The interview was taped on Friday during the president’s trip to California and was released early Monday morning. Maron on Friday posted this photo of himself posed with the president outside his garage, which doubles as his recording studio, with the caption “This happened.”
Reflecting on the Charleston church shooting last Wednesday, President Obama said that beyond the grieving, “it’s not enough just to feel bad.” He called for "common-sense gun safety laws" so that recurrences of mass shootings cease to be “something that we expect.”
“One of those actions that we could take would be to enhance some basic, common-sense gun-safety laws,” Obama said. “Each time that these events occur, ironically, gun manufacturers make out like bandits, partly because of this fear that’s churned up that the government and the black helicopters are all coming to get your guns.”
The president went on to make the case that a balance can be struck between respect for hunting traditions as a legitimate form of gun use while also keeping firearms out of the hands of those who intend to do harm.
“The question is just: Is there a way of accommodating that legitimate set of traditions with some common-sense stuff that prevents a 21-year old who is angry about something or confused about something, or is racist, or is deranged, from going into a gun store and suddenly is packing and can do enormous harm that is not something we have ever fully come to terms with,” Obama said.
Obama added that he does not expect the current Congress to make meaningful strides on gun-safety laws, because “unfortunately the grip of the NRA on Congress is extremely strong.”