Baltimore official battles CNN host: Just call rioters 'n*****s' if you're going to call them thugs

Baltimore City Council member Carl Stokes clashed with CNN's Erin Burnett on Tuesday when she argued in favor of calling rioters in the city "thugs."

"Isn't it the right word?" Burnett asked.

"No, it's not the right word to call our children 'thugs,'" Stokes said. "These are children who have been set aside, marginalized, who have not been engaged by us."

"But how does that justify what they did?" Burnett countered. "That's a sense of right and wrong. They know it's wrong to steal and burn down a CVS and an old persons' home. I mean, come on."

"Come on? Just call them n*ggers. Just call them n*ggers," Stokes told her. "No, we don't have to call them by names such as that. We don't have to do that. That is exactly what we've sent them to. When you say, 'Come on,' come on what? You wouldn't call your child a thug if they should do something that would not be what you expect them to do."

"I respect your point of view," Burnett replied. "I would hope that I would call my son a thug if he ever did such a thing."

The city's mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, has been criticized for blaming the unrest in the city on "thugs" while seemingly ignoring police violence that contributed to escalating tensions between law enforcement and residents leading up to the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray in police custody earlier this month.

"You need to do better, Rawlings-Blake," Hillary Crosley Coker wrote in Jezebel. "Because, right now, you look like the woman who is protecting the people who are killing your voters."

On Tuesday, Burnett attempted to get Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D-MD) to weigh in on the topic, only for Mfume to describe it as a derailing.

"It's important that we not shift the focus into something that has absolutely nothing to do with poverty, despair, hunger, homelessness and the sense of not belonging," Mfume said.

The exchange between Burnett and Stokes came hours after her colleague, Wolf Blitzer, was called out by activist DeRay McKesson for also downplaying the use of lethal force by authorities.

Watch the discussion, as posted online on Tuesday, below.