The gaffe machine that is President Joe Biden kicked into high gear to devastating effect on Thursday when he awkwardly referred to the late baseball great Satchel Paige as “the great negro” during a Veteran’s Day address, as Fox News reports.
Biden was delivering remarks at Arlington National Cemetery in which he was paying tribute to former Ambassador Donald Blinken, father of current Secretary of State Antony Blinken, when he began speaking about Paige, who was a groundbreaking figure in the integration of professional sports, and his approach to aging.
“I’ve adopted the attitude of the great negro at the time, pitcher in the Negro leagues, went on to become a great pitcher in the pros, in the MLB, after Jackie Robinson, his name was Satchel Paige,” began Biden, according to the U.S. Sun.
The very fact of an American president using such antiquated – and almost universally disfavored – terminology to describe a Black athlete sparked immediate uproar on social media and beyond, with the Twitter hashtag #RacistJoe trending on Friday.
One Twitter user indicated exasperation with the president’s insensitive choice of words by saying, “You guys. Please get him off stage. People can hear him, you know. It’s embarrassing more than funny. Stahp it. Come get your boy,” as the Sun noted.
Another mortified observer wrote, “You’ve got to be kidding me. Please don’t anyone make excuses for this. Please.”
Though many who heard Biden’s comments were aghast that he didn’t realize the incendiary nature of the term before speaking, Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum came to his defense after the fact, as Newsweek reports.
“It’s an honor, as we look at it, that the president has such an affinity for Satchel. We take absolutely no offense to what the president said. As a matter of fact, we applaud the president for continuing to be an advocate for this history,” Kendrick declared.
While it is not surprising that Biden will almost certainly receive a pass for his tone-deaf use of what is to many an outdated, offensive word to describe a racial minority, the mind does boggle to imagine the dire fate that would have awaited any Republican politician who had done the same.