Richard Cohen Defends Column: ‘The Word Racist Is Truly Hurtful’

Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen defended his column centered on the Tea Party on Tuesday, in which he claimed that those with “conventional views must repress a gag reflex” when they encounter biracial couples such as newly-elected New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife Chirlane McCray. 

“I didn’t write one line, I wrote a column,” he told the Huffington Post in an interview. “The column is about Tea Party extremism and I was not expressing my views, I was expressing the views of what I think some people in the Tea Party held.”

“The word racist is truly hurtful,” he added. “It’s not who I am. It’s not who I ever was. It’s just not fair. It’s just not right.”

Cohen explained that he didn’t think the entire Tea Party held such views.

“I don’t think everybody in the Tea Party is like that, because I know there are blacks in the Tea Party,” he said. “So they’re not all racist, unless I’m going to start doing mind reading about why those black people are there.”

Fred Hiatt, the Washington Post editorial page editor, also defended the column Tuesday, but said that he could have edited it “more carefully.”

“Anyone reading Richard’s entire column will see he is just saying that some Americans still have a hard time dealing with interracial marriage,” he said. “I erred in not editing that one sentence more carefully to make sure it could not be misinterpreted.”

Cohen told the Post that his record backed him up.

“Look, maybe the word was inappropriate or maybe I could have used a different word,” he said. “But you’re talking to somebody who has written, I don’t know, 100 columns in favor of homosexual rights, many columns in favor of same sex marriage.”

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