Standup comic and Real Time host Bill Maher makes a regular habit of joking about President Obama’s race in ways that promote black stereotypes, and this week was no exception. In his opening monologue, Maher zinged white people for waiting until the last minute to sign up for Obamacare, and pointed out how surprised the President must have been that it wasn’t the black people who showed up late. Maher also joked that the President was so proud of the ACA’s 7 million-plus enrollments that he proudly displayed a pack of Newports in the Rose Garden of the White House.
“Obama said ‘It’s nice to know that sometimes a black guy makes plans, and it’s the white people who show up late,'” Maher cracked, and added that the President was “feelin’ it” when he made remarks on the enrollment figures in the Rose Garden last week.
“He was like ‘Yeah, we fuckin’ did it, we pulled it out,'” Maher said. “He had the Newports sticking right out of his pocket.”
I swear, I do not intend to do a weekly Serious Injuries Notebook of Bill Maher race quotes (there were several others throughout this episode that I’ve ignored), but when they’re this offensive and pointless, they need to be called out, and no one else is doing it. There’s no other reason to make Newports the punchline here, except to reinforce a racial stereotype.
It’s a well-known stereotype, one made famous by Dave Chappelle’s “I Know Black People” sketch, in which contestants are asked why black people smoke menthols, and the correct answer is “no one knows.”
While it’s true that 75 percent of black smokers choose menthols, as opposed to 25 percent of whites, most black people don’t smoke cigarettes at all, and currently, they smoke at a slightly lower proportion than white people. The prevalence of menthol cigarettes among black smokers has not escaped the notice of the Congressional Black Caucus, which unsuccessfully tried to add them to a federal ban on flavored cigarettes. Like malt liquor, menthol cigarettes have been heavily marketed to black consumers for decades. It’s a destructive stereotype that has a real human cost.
What’s also true is that President Obama doesn’t, or didn’t, smoke Newports. He was a Marlboro man, when he did smoke. In fact, without naming names, there are a small handful of smokers at the White House, and in five years, the only menthol smoker I’ve ever seen there has been a white guy.
Maher’s joke is particularly offensive because it is so gratuitous. The Newport punchline is only there to reference the President’s blackness, to put him back into a ‘hood he was never in, at his time of greatest triumph.
Speaking of racism, you’ve really got to love The Daily Caller for finding an anonymous source to give this quote about my apparently “pimpin'” new hat, the one I wore to the White House all last week: “I mean, Tommy goes on a black news show on a black TV channel and tries to dress black. WTF? Isn’t that a little uncomfortably patronizing?”
Since I don’t know who that source was, I’ll just address my response to, say, “Fucker Marlson.” Fucker, my dear boy, why does the oldest reporter hat in human history become an attempt to “dress black” because you saw it on a black TV show?