Comedy Central host Larry Wilmore has opened up about the motivation behind the use of the n-word in his controversial White House Correspondents’ Dinner speech last Saturday, and President Obama’s response.
“I’ve talked about what this presidency has meant to me on a personal level, how much it really affected me on a personal level and why I was a supporter of Obama from that historical point of view,” Wilmore told Daily Beast in a recent interview, adding that he takes personal offense whenever the president has been insulted in the past.
He continued, “When I think about that particular word and how it’s been used against our people, for me to be able to turn it on its head and have almost a private moment with the president on stage, kind of like a public solitude, where he knew what I was talking about. Usually that’s something we only do behind closed doors. But to do it in public, I thought, would be a strong way to end. And I knew it would be controversial and I was ready to accept the fallout from it.”
Wilmore, the featured entertainer of Saturday’s ritzy gathering, used the podium as a platform to roast political figures like President Obama and Donald Trump, as well as media outlets like CNN and MSNBC. His set included a shocking use of the n-word, which has caused a media ruckus in the days following the high-profile event.
“Because of the experience in the room, I was wasn’t sure how anybody received it. I thought maybe it felt like that outside too. I really didn’t know. And then Twitter started going crazy. And all these comments came in and people were saying, ‘Oh my god, that was the best ever’ and I was like, ‘Really?’ … ‘Thank god somebody liked it out there.’ Some of the things that people said in support of it were unbelievable,” Wilmore said of the social media reaction to his word choice. “It was just so much good validation for what I was trying to accomplish. But there was a lot of negative as well, there was plenty of both.”
But Wilmore told the Daily Beast that he felt nothing but acceptance from the president following his speech. “That embrace at the end was so nice, it just felt so genuine. He was nothing but classy the whole time, and the First Lady. At the end, we were on the dais and he was like, ‘Hey, Larry, come over, we got to get in this picture.’ And I’m just there thinking, ‘I don’t know, how do people feel about what I did? Did I just blow things up here?’ I really didn’t know, so they made me feel nothing but comfortable and a part of everything.”
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