Speaking on his “Nightly Show,” Wilmore took the British journalist and former CNN personality to task for the way he interpreted his remarks, in which he praised Obama’s tenure as the first African-American commander-in-chief. Morgan chastised Wilmore for using a form of the N-word in his routine. Wilmore responded with a cultural history lesson for Morgan.
The term “n—a,” explained Wilmore, who is African-American, “is a term of endearment some black people use between each other to take back that power.” Morgan’s use of the word in his article, on the other hand, is how “white people used to denigrate, demean and dehumanize black people,” Wilmore said.
“Stop calling us that! Stop it! Stop it! Conjugate the slur!” Wilmore said Monday on his Comedy Central series. “And then also don’t use it. Trust me on that.”
Wilmore caused a stir with his appearance Saturday at the glitzy Washington, D.C. gathering, using his time at the podium to take digs at CNN anchors Don Lemon and Wolf Blitzer as well as the whiteness of President Obama’s hair.
Some of the broadsides Wilmore hurled at the media outlets raised the crowd’s hackles. CNN’s Lemon even gave the comedian the finger in a gesture captured on plenty of cameras at the black-tie event. Wilmore seemed to lose support early in his efforts, leaving the audience less likely to laugh when he moved on to other topics later in his speech.
The response from WHCD attendees and those who watched the event on TV has been generally negative. Detractors suggested Wilmore’s performance was a missed opportunity to draw viewers to his “Nightly Show,” which has struggled to match the audience of “The Colbert Report,” his predecessor in the 11:30 p.m. Monday to Thursday timeslot.
“Nightly” has suffered from transition at Comedy Central’s “Daily Show,” where new host Trevor Noah has also lost some of the TV audience that flocked to Jon Stewart during his long run at the desk. Wilmore’s “Nightly Show” was renewed last year for a second season that lasts through the end of 2016.
Wilmore nodded briefly to the reaction to his D.C. performance at the top of Monday’s show, asking his cheering crowd: “So how was your weekend?”
“Mine was pretty good,” he continued. “I hosted a little dinner party with a few friends — me, Don Lemon, the President. You know, my boys. Right?”
Wilmore admitted his use of “n—a” could be seen as polarizing. “Now, there was a lot of reaction online. Many people were upset about it. Many people supported it. Like the President himself, the reaction was mixed. Oh, shoot. I did it again!” he joked.
“I’m fine,” he told the audience, though he acknowledged that the reaction was understandable. “I completely understand why people would be upset about that. It’s a very charged word. I get it.”
Watch the “Nightly Show” segment below.