Haley Barbour Apologizes For ‘Tar Babies’ Comment On Obama’s Policies


In what’s become a repeated gaffe in American politics, former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) has apologized for describing President Obama’s policies as “tar babies.”

In an article published Monday morning, Politico reported on a pair of anonymous sources who said Barbour made the comment during a conference call last week involving clients of the lobbying firm BGR Group.

Barbour, a cofounder of the firm, confirmed to Politico that he used the phrase.

“If someone takes offense, I regret it. But, again, neither the context nor the connotation was intended to offend,” he told Politico in an email.

“Tar baby” has two very different meanings. Derived from American folklore, it can refer to a difficult situation. It is also used as a racial slur.

That history has gotten a number of politicians in trouble, including former GOP presidential nominees Mitt Romney and John McCain. Like Romney and McCain, Barbour apologized but insisted that he didn’t think he was using a slur.

“The Oxford American Dictionary defines the term as ‘a difficult problem, that’s only aggravated by attempts to solve it.’ This is exactly what I meant and the context in which I used the term,” Barbour explained to Politico.


Tom Kludt is a reporter for Talking Points Memo based in New York City, covering media and national affairs. Originally from South Dakota, Tom joined TPM as an intern in late-2011 and became a staff member during the 2012 election. He can be reached at tom@talkingpointsmemo.com.