Pat Buchanan Calls Obama ‘Your Boy’ To Al Sharpton

Pat Buchanan referred to President Obama as "your boy" in conversation with Al Sharpton.

Al Sharpton and the HuffPo gang are offended that Pat Buchanan used an ordinary turn of phrase in referring to President Obama.

HuffPost Media (“Pat Buchanan Calls Obama ‘Your Boy’ To Al Sharpton, Clarifies Remark (VIDEO)“):

Pat Buchanan was forced to clarify some potentially controversial remarks he made on MSNBC Tuesday night.

Buchanan was on Al Sharpton’s 6 PM show, having a very boisterous discussion with the Rev. about President Obama’s debt deal. Sharpton was defending Obama’s handling of the situation, and Buchanan was challenging his interpretation of events. He brought up the issue of the Bush tax cuts.

“And let me tell you, your boy, Barack Obama, caved in on it in 2010 and he’ll cave in on it again,” he said. Sharpton looked shocked.

“My what? My president Barack Obama? What did you say?” he asked. “He’s your boy in the ring, he’s your fighter,” Buchanan responded.

“He’s nobody’s boy,” Sharpton thundered back. “He’s your president and he’s our president. And that’s what y’all have got to get through your head.”

On Wednesday’s “Morning Joe,” Buchanan sought to clarify his remarks.

“I was asked who was the big losers in these battles and the big winners, and I said one of the big losers, using boxing terminology, was ‘your boy,’ and I meant the president of the United States,” he said. “Rev. Sharpton said my boy is the president of the United States and he’s doing a rope-a-dope in the Ali fashion and he’s going to finish off your crowd. Now this was taken, some folks took what I said as some kind of slur. None was meant, none was intended, none was delivered, for the record.”

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You’ve gotta be kidding me.

Let’s grant that Buchanan has a history of saying things that could be construed as racist or anti-Semitic. And “boy” has a history of being used to diminish black men and can even be a slur in some contexts.

That said, construing “your boy” in this context as racist is either craven or blithely unaware of the American idiom. “Your boy” is used, often ironically, to refer to someone that the person to whom one is talking is close or admires. That’s quite obviously how he was using the phrase here.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Yea I’m no Buchahan fan but this is silly.

    And criticizing Pat Buchanan for an allegedly race-based comment made to Al Sharpton strikes me a just a little bit ironic.

  2. Uh-oh, so when I do my impressions of Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilburn I am going to get in trouble now?

  3. Jay Tea says:

    Pat Buchanan is a genius at running full-tilt right up to the line of open bigotry, then slamming on the brakes. This lets him say he didn’t really say it, while bigots can say “you know what he’s really talking about here — he’d say it openly if they’d let him.” It comes out most when he’s not quite being an anti-Semite and not quite being a Nazi sympathizer.

    It’s one of many reasons I can’t stand him.


  4. James Joyner says:

    @Timothy Watson: The PTI exchanges were what first came to mind when I saw the exchange, in fact.

  5. michael reynolds says:

    I think this is a bunch of nothing.

  6. James Joyner says:

    @michael reynolds: Yeah. It’s amazing how many of these “outrage” memes are just that.

  7. Dave says:

    Yesterday it was “TarBaby”! Today it’s Your Boy!!! In 2011 Racism is alive and well… It’s a shame..

  8. legion says:

    Here’s a question – are there any actual black commenters on this site? Why don’t we ask them if they consider it offensive before we all just fold our arms and say it’s no big thing?

  9. Rhoni says:


    Yes Legion. I do take offense to Pat Buchanan and his very “unusual” reference to the President in his interview with Al Sharpton. Its interesting that Mr. Buchanan can boisterously defend the views and one-sided positions of his party, that will most assuredly impact the less well off and the most forgotten, yet all who support his position (not necessarily his specific views) will shrug a comment like this off and attempt to excuse it. Have you ever heard Pat Buchanan use this term in a dialog with Caucasian analysts or commentators? Have you ever heard him use this type reference to the President when the President in office was of the same skin color as he? Its interesting that, as you say, there are only white commenters here who have this opinion. I was in my car listening to the interview, and immediately “picked up” a queue of racial bigotry. Now I know why Pat Buchanan “gets on my last nerve”. Let me offer this quote that I heard on Keith Olbermann and HAD to look up for my self. Blog post August 1, 2011 on WorldNet Daily News by, Pat Buchanan: “Mocked by the Wall Street Journal and Sen. John McCain as the little people of the “Lord of the Rings” books, the tea-party “Hobbits” are indeed returning to Middle Earth – to nail the coonskin to the wall.”

    I think this quote in his own “typing” speaks volumes and I would prefer Mark Halperin on Morning Joe to Pat. At least Mark speaks truth with honesty. He may have not been very wise to speak it but I don’t feel a tinge of racism in his statement that got him removed from the show. This for me warrants Pat Buchanan being removed from every show that gives his opinions any credence. As a black woman who considers herself fair and definitely NOT racist, I have NO RESPECT FOR PAT BUCHANAN or his opinions; and Rev Al was RIGHT to call him OUT.

    Read more: The day of the Hobbits

  10. michael reynolds says:

    Actually, I have heard Buchanan use that phrase. I use that phrase as well.

    Do I think Buchanan is a racist and an anti-semite? Yes. I think he’s a nasty fascist asshole, to tell you the truth. But this particular usage was well within his normal patterns of speech.

    If there’s a beef with Buchanan it should be over the fact that anyone on any network gives him air time. He’a a man who went to the mat to defend a Nazi concentration camp guard from extradition. He’s a race-baiter of long standing, a white supremacist, a Muslim-hater and general, all-purpose goon.

    He shouldn’t be hired by any network.

    BUt that doesn’t mean he meant “Boy” in that way. Had he meant “Boy” in that way, he’d have found another word: he’s not quite that crude, and he is very quick and glib. I’m convinced it was a throwaway.

  11. Gustopher says:

    When a bigot uses a phrase that might be bigoted, I just assume it is.

  12. OzarkHillbilly says:


    When a bigot uses a phrase that might be bigoted, I just assume it is.

    Common sense says I must, Occams razor and all that.

  13. legion says:

    @Gustopher: Hear hear. What MR says is reasonable & could be technically correct, but Buchanan gets absolutely no leeway. The man’s shown his true colors (so to speak) far too often for there to be any extension of courtesy.

  14. legion says:

    @Rhoni: Also: thank you. The mental image of a bunch of well-fed white guys standing around the virtual street corner deciding what is & isn’t “racist” seemed more than a bit silly.

  15. Kylopod says:

    >Have you ever heard Pat Buchanan use this term in a dialog with Caucasian analysts or commentators?

    “How’s your boy doing, Irving?” — Pat Buchanan, 2006, addressing Irving Kristol regarding George W. Bush.

  16. Cynic in NY says:

    Buchanan and Sharpton are just carbon copies of each other. Sharpton a race baiting liberal who sees racism at every turn (claiming all white people are out to kill all minorities) while Buchanan a race baiting conservative who sees affirmative action at every turn (claiming that all minorities are apart of the secret jewish plot to kill all white people). I cant think of anything that is more time wasteful than watching a “debate” between those two idiots. There are only two things that keep these idiots and their ilk (Jesse Jackson and Frosty Wooldridge to name two) are affirmative action and immigration. Without those two issues they would be very very irrelevant.

  17. Racehorse says:

    This is a common expression where I am from and I have never connected it to any racial overtones or as a racial slur. Does everyone have to bow to Al Sharpton’s throne?

  18. An Interested Party says:

    This is a common expression where I am from and I have never connected it to any racial overtones or as a racial slur.

    Considering your views of the Civil War and the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s, of course you haven’t made that connection…

  19. Nightrider says:

    I’m not into weenie fights over PC language and claims of offense. But I did grow up in a place and time when “boy” was intentionally used to diminish black men. I knew black people who could remember a time when if they protested being called “boy” they’d stand a good chance of being beaten with absolutely no recourse to the corrupt racist police or courts. I’ve seen this country come too far to not be mad at anyone calling this particular POTUS “boy,” at least if they don’t after the fact concede that upon further reflection they didn’t intend the old meaning and that they wished they hadn’t used that term.

  20. Ben says:

    As a white person in my early 30s that grew up and has lived in the north my entire life, I had never even heard of the word “boy” being considered a slur until embarassingly recently. I readily admit my amazing level of ignorance about issues like this. But I have used “your boy” in the exact same way that Buchanon did a million times when talking with my friends about their favorite athletes, singers, comics, or pretty much anything. And the racist interpretation did not cross my mind once.

  21. john personna says:

    Sharpton is not one to pass up a slow pitch, is he? I doubt even he thought it was authentically racist.

    FWIW, I do get tired of Buchanan’s role at Morning Joe. When they need someone to defend the indefensible on the right, they hand it off to Pat, and he says Palin is a rocket scientist, the Tea Party is the reasonable actor in the debt dispute, whatever. It’s sad, but I guess it frees Joe from having to defend that stuff.

    To bad they feel the need to have anyone in that niche.

  22. Rhoni says:

    Well maybe it’s time for Pat Buchanan to GROW UP and take a racial sensitivity class. If the rest of the country is expected to be more wise and respectful, then I think it is time for the people who influence public and political thought to learn a few lessons. It can be easy for a white man to throw away a comment of a white man, even as it relates to a white man; but the white man has a different history in this country and the black man is still in the midst of a conversation that’s WAY TOO OLD. If you are having a conversation with “friends”, and you happen to use this term, because they are friends, the conversation takes on a different tone and the term is used within a different framework. So then, being that I presume Rev Al and Pat are NOT ‘best buds’ and Rev Al has had many occasions to exchange differences of political opinion with this man, I am quite sure he would have a history from which to draw when he is responding to a comment of this nature with Pat Buchanan. We have a problem in this country where we choose to dismiss a comment because it has no meaning to us and for those to whom it has significant meaning, we want to call them “whiners”. Well I submit, try walking in the black shoes for a little while (if you can) and take with you a healthy knowledge of the history of that pair of shoes; and please allow yourself to “receive” or take the comments and suggestions ‘personally’. Only then can you ONLY come close to understanding. Why? Because, really you have a choice still, you can change your experience and make that change at will, whenever you choose. You can wipe it off. I pray someday we will finally arrive at a place where we can see only HUMANITY–period. Side note: I have all three stories in the trilogy of Lord of the Rings and in NOT ONE OF THEM have I EVER saw a “Coon”.

  23. Rhoni says:

    @john personna:

    My name is Rhoni, and I approve this message.

  24. Rhoni says:


    Please read my reply to Kylopod. There are statements made that address your points.

  25. Rhoni says:

    @Rhoni: @Cynic in NY:

    To your point Cynic, I have not always supported nor agreed with Rev Al Sharpton. There seems though to be an air of cynicism with regard to the possibility of truth in arguments and the evolution of change in the individual. Just hope one day you can allow yourself to come forward and hear the argument in the present day. I do understand within the context of the ‘past’.

  26. Kylopod says:

    @Rhoni: What in my comment are you responding to? All I did was address your rhetorical question–“Have you ever heard Pat Buchanan use this term in a dialog with Caucasian analysts or commentators?”–and I showed you an example of when Buchanan did, in fact, do just that. Now, are you going to admit you were wrong on this point? Or are you going to go off on another rant that you present as a “reply” to me but that doesn’t address a single thing I’ve said?