Melissa Harris-Perry held a “Was that racist?” lightning round on her show with a panel of comedians, in a look back at some of the more questionable moments of 2012.
The panelists started with Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who said in January that she “felt a little bit threatened” in reference to a picture of her pointing a finger at President Obama when he approached her on a tarmac.
“I was surprised she didn’t bring in Sheriff Joe [Arpaio] to truck him away,” said Jamie Kilstein, co-host of Citizen Radio.
“And it’s racist only because of the idea that she said had to go off because she felt threatened. You felt threatened by the most visible negro in the world right now?” said Elon James White, of This Week in Blackness.
“I just heard Jan Brewer and slowly put up my card,” Kilstein said.
“I put it up for Arizona,” comedian Maysoon Zayid, who attended Arizona State University, said.
In January, Newt Gingrich said that if one school janitor were replaced with 30 kids for the same pay, “those 30 kids would be a lot less likely to drop out, they would actually have money in their pocket, they’d learn to show up for work.”
Kilstein said it wasn’t clear to him if the comment was racist or classist.
Stand-up comedian Molly Knefel called it “intersectionally oppressive” of low-income people and minorities.
“I didn’t call racism on this, I called a-hole,” White said.
Mitt Romney said in August to a crowd of supporters, “I love being home in this place Ann and I were raised, where both of us were born,” going on to say, “No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate, they know that this is the place that we were born and raised.”
Zayid, of N.Y. Arab-American Comedy, called it not racist, just “utter stupidity” and a “complete disconnect with the fact that that’s the most inappropriate thing he could have ever said.”
She also said it was an “old, played-out joke.”
“If you want to argue that it plays into racist tones,” said White, “yes, I’d argue yes, he did that. But do I think that Mitt Romney that day was racist? No, again, that was a douche move. For you to get up there, the thing is, you could see he was feeling it. Because when he said it, he literally stopped as if he was The Rock and smelled the air around him as he made this joke and everyone clapped. Now if you asked me is that audience racist, I don’t know.”
Kilstein disagreed, saying it was “clearly otherizing.”
Most recently, John McCain had his picture taken just this week with a person in a giant Oreo costume.
“Is this racist?” Harris-Perry asked while laughing.
“It’s just weird,” White said. “Unless he tweeted out the picture and said, ‘Me and Obama.’”
Watch the video, via MSNBC, below.