In an interview on the WTF podcast on Monday, Barack Obama said the word "n- - - -r" as part of a wider argument about racism being alive and well in America.
Racism, we are not cured of it. And it's not just a matter of it not being polite to say n- - - -r in public.
That's not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It's not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don't, overnight, completely erase everything that happened 200 or 300 years prior.
In the fallout of his hour-long interview, in which he made lots of wider points about American society, the US media has had a complete meltdown over the president's use of that six-letter word.
Rather than building on Obama's point that there are still many ways in which racism is prevalent in the US, particularly in light of the racially-motivated murder of nine black churchgoers in South Carolina last week, many commentators reduced the debate to moralising over whether the president should use the term "n- - - -r" or not.
His colleague on the all-white panel, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, then spurted out: "I think many people are wondering if it’s only there that he would say it. And not, perhaps, in a State of the Union or more public address, if he’s only doing this because he feels, you know, cloaked in the podcast, that he felt safe to do it there."
Speaking to host Bill Hemmer, America's Newsroom pundit Deneen Borelli, who branded Obama "rapper-in-chief", said:
We're talking about the president of the United States using the 'n-word,' Bill. He has really dragged in the gutter speak of rap music.
So now he is the first president of rap, of street? Come on, he has lowered the stature of the high office of the president of the United States and the question is why did he do this
Hemmer later chipped in: "As a white American... this is something that we thought was entirely off limits and now you have the president using it."
CNN host Don Lemon took things to a whole new level, however. While defending Obama against the critics, he held a huge sign reading "n- - - -r" asking viewers if they found it offensive.
I tell you, right after Sandy Hook, Newtown, when 20 six-year-olds were gunned down and Congress literally does nothing, yeah, that’s the closest I came to feeling disgusted. I was pretty disgusted.
On mass shootings:
There is no other advanced nation on Earth that tolerates multiple shootings on a regular basis and considers it normal. To some degree that's what's happened in this country. It's become something that we expect.
On racism in the US:
I always tell young people in particular: 'Do not say that nothing's changed when it comes to race in America unless you lived through being a black man in the 1950s or '60s or '70s'.
On his image in Washington:
Some of the mythology about me being very professorial, removed, that stuff… I think it has to do with me not schmoozing enough in Washington because I’ve got two kids. And it’s true that I don’t do the cocktail circuit.
On his values:
Right around 20 you start realising that honesty, kindness, hard work, responsibility, looking after other people - they're actually pretty good values. They're homespun, they come out of my Kansas roots, but they're the things that ended up being more important to me in how I tried to build my life.
On the media:
We're not in a common conversation. If you watch Fox News you inhabit a completely different world with different facts than if you read the New York Times.