As is often the case when someone tries to make jokes in front of an audience that takes itself too seriously to understand jokes, host Larry Wilmore’s speech at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner this weekend has earned its fair share of detractors—all of which can be found simply by searching for “Larry Wilmore” on the internet or by switching on Fox News. According to Deadline, though, one of Wilmore’s lines in particular is generating way more hot takes than his jokes about Donald Trump’s baby hands or Ted Cruz being the Zodiac Killer. Near the end of his speech, Wilmore acknowledged the historical impact that Obama’s presidency will have, saying:
When I was a kid, I lived in a country where people couldn’t accept a black quarterback. Now think about that: A black man was thought by his mere color not good enough to lead a football team, and now, to live in your time, Mr. President, when a black man can lead the entire free world, words alone can do me no justice. So, Mr. President, if I’m going to keep it 100: Yo, Barry, you did it, my n*gga. You did it.
The reaction to that last line is about what you’d expect (again, Google it or turn on Fox News), but White House press secretary Josh Earnest has gotten ahead of the controversy and declared at a briefing today that President Obama “appreciated the spirit of Mr. Wilmore’s expressions” and that “any reading of [Wilmore’s] comments makes clear he was not using the president as the butt of a joke.” Deadline says this prompted a reporter to ask if this has “opened the floodgate for Obama’s critics to use similar language” (a.k.a. the “if he can say it, why can’t I?” argument), to which Earnest responded, “I have no idea what impact Larry Wilmore’s speech is gonna have on the president’s critics, and I don’t think I’m gonna spend much time worrying about it.” If only we could all be so lucky.