MSNBC host apologizes for slavery gaffe

Fri Oct 8, 2010 4:04am EDT

RNC Chairman Michael Steele speaks at the 2010 Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana in this April 10, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/Sean Gardner

RNC Chairman Michael Steele speaks at the 2010 Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana in this April 10, 2010 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Sean Gardner

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - He has been on the air only a week, but MSNBC's newest host, Lawrence O'Donnell, is already channeling Rick Sanchez and Dr. Laura Schlessinger by apologizing for insensitive remarks directed at a minority.

In O'Donnell's case, the incident involved a show this week on which he invoked the imagery of slavery while introducing Michael Steele, the African-American head of the Republican National Committee. O'Donnell apologized for his indiscretion on Wednesday's show.

"Michael Steele is dancing as fast as he can," O'Donnell began his Steele intro, "trying to charm independent voters and Tea Partiers while never losing sight of his real master and paycheck provider, the Republican National Committee."

He made the remarks before showing a taped interview with Steele, so the interviewee didn't hear it until viewing the TV show later. Steele called O'Donnell to complain, and O'Donnell played the voice message on Wednesday's show.

Steele objected to the insinuation he was "a slave to the RNC," and added: "I've had to put up with that crap my entire political life."

O'Donnell's gaffe hasn't attracted the attention Sanchez got when he called Jon Stewart a bigot and insinuated CNN and was run primarily by Jews, or that Schlessinger got when she used the N-word, but some talk-radio hosts, like Larry Elder in Los Angeles, picked up on it.

Elder told his audience Thursday that not only was the "master" part objectionable, but also the bit about "dancing." In his apology, though, O'Donnell said he'd use the dancing analogy again.

In his voice mail, Steele put this challenge to O'Donnell: "You can imagine if the RNC referred to Barack Obama as, you know, the slave to the Democratic party. Or, more appropriately, as you would put it, that the Democratic party is master to Barack Obama. You would be hitting the roof on air!"

After hearing the voice mail, O'Donnell said he called Steele to apologize for using the word "master" and Steele accepted the apology, and said he'd like to be a guest on the show again.

"Mr. Chairman, I sincerely apologize," O'Donnell said on his Wednesday show, "The Last Word."

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