Westmoreland taking heat for 'uppity' comment about Obamas

By SARAH FAY CAMPBELL sarah@newnan.com Congressman Lynn Westmoreland, R-Grantville, has been taking a lot of flack for calling Barack and Michelle Obama "uppity." But the congressman didn't intend there to be any racial overtones to the comment, said his spokesman, Brian Robinson.
"Lynn was using the term as a synonym for elitist. He also used the phrase 'elite class,'" Robinson said. "He was repeating a sentiment that Republicans have discussed -- that Obama seems somewhat arrogant," Robinson said. "And that is the dictionary definition" of uppity. Speaking to reporters Thursday, Westmoreland described the Obamas as "a member of an elitist class [of] individual that thinks that they're uppity," according to The Hill, a Capitol Hill newspaper. According to The Associated Press, when the reporter then asked Westmoreland whether he intended to use the word, he said, "Yeah, uppity." Robinson considers that evidence that Westmoreland was making an innocent remark. "He obviously had no idea that the word had racial overtones. He feels terrible if anyone was offended by his use of that word, because that was not his intention," Robinson said. Westmoreland's Democratic opponent, Stephen Camp, said he will take Westmoreland at his word "on what the Webster's definition of uppity is." "But anyone who has lived and grown up in the South and in Georgia knows what that word means in the vernacular, and what it has meant for the past 50 and longer years in the discourse of race relations here," Camp said. The dictionary definition of "uppity" is "putting on or marked by airs of superiority: arrogant, presumptuous," according to Merriam-Webster online. The dictionary states that the word dates from 1880. The common use of the word, however, especially in the South, is to refer to black people who are trying to act better than they are. In a statement, Westmoreland said "I've never heard that term used in a racially derogatory sense. It is important to note that the dictionary definition of 'uppity' is 'affecting an air of inflated self-esteem -- snobbish.' That's what we meant by uppity when we used it in the mill village where I grew up." Shortly after Westmoreland's remarks became public, Camp sent a statement saying that "Lynn Westmoreland embarrassed the state of Georgia and the voters in the third district." "Such comments are wholly inappropriate and have no place in our nation's political discourse," Camp said. "If Westmoreland thinks that this behavior and language is appropriate for a member of Congress, we cannot bring change to Washington soon enough." The statement was "an honest misunderstanding," said Robinson. When the Obama campaign was asked for a comment, "their comments were in response to the elitist charge," Robinson said. "They saw his comments the same way that Lynn intended them. We're certainly glad they're not making a racial issue of it, when no such sentiment was intended," Robinson said. "It was not his intention to use a word that had overtones. He was unaware that the term was a loaded term," Robinson said. "He certainly never meant to hurt anyone's feelings." The comments were "insensitive at best," said Camp. "If he did not know, then he should have known what it meant, giving the constituency that he purports to represent," Camp said. "I would encourage him to talk to a cross section of the district he represents and ask them if it has any racial connotation to it."

More Local

250 students affected

Homelessness ‘vicious cycle that’s going to continue’

The economy has bounced back from the lows of a few years ago. The housing market is healthy, and the jobless rate has improved. But, for so ... Read More


Annual Sunrise on the Square Road Race a success

The annual Sunrise on the Square included ideal weather and a first-time winner who actually pushed his baby in a stroller. The race, hosted ... Read More


HealthSouth facility scheduled to open Dec. 2

Progress for HealthSouth’s new facility is on track for a Dec. 2 opening, which will add to the town’s growing collection of hea ... Read More


Subsidized medical center proposed for Senoia

Palmetto Health Council is applying for a grant to bring a subsidized medical clinic to Coweta, proposed for the Senoia area. The non-profit ... Read More


Economic Impact

Ports hit new record

The Georgia Ports Authority moved more than 3 million 20-foot equivalent container units in fiscal year 2014 – and set a new record fo ... Read More

Maternity home on zoning board’s agenda

Decisions on a proposed “maternity home” for pregnant teens, expanded outdoor seating for a proposed downtown restaurant, and al ... Read More