AP, Politico Overly Sensitive to Perceived Racial Slight of Sotomayor?

Might Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) have some "'splainin' to do" about racial insensitivity? Both Associated Press editor Michael Giarrusso and Politico's Glenn Thrush raised the question in blog posts filed this morning.

Shortly before noon, Giarrusso noted that "Sen. Tom Coburn evoked a 1950s TV show in a quip responding to Sonia Sotomayor’s scenario about what he might do if she -- hypothetically, of course -- attacked him."

For online readers unaware of the half-century-old pop culture reference, Giarrusso explained:

In the famous 1950s TV show "I Love Lucy," the Cuban-American bandleader Ricardo (played by the equally Cuban-American bandleader Desi Arnaz) would often admonish his scatterbrained wife, Lucy, by saying she'd have some "'splainin'" to do. The phrase, "Lucy, you have some 'splainin' to do," has become part of the popular culture.

While Giarrusso didn't go so far as to condemn the reference, he did open wide  the door for questioning whether Coburn might have crossed a hazily-defined cultural sensitivity line:

Calling Coburn out for this might be going too far -- those who know him say he often speaks like this -- but it was hard not to notice his inflection and choice of words. At the very least, it suggests a tin ear -- particularly when you're speaking to a woman who may become the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice.

For his part, Politico's Glenn Thrush -- whose story was filed at 11:00 a.m. EDT -- described the incident as "a funny, slightly cringe-inducing exchange."

Unlike Giarrusso, Thrush placed less weight on the "splainin" crack as it being "probably the first time in two-plus centuries of SCOTUS hearings where a nominee suggested he or she would plug a sitting senator, however hypothetically."

Politico also has video of the exchange (embedded below), where it's clear the Oklahoma Republican did NOT -- contrary to Giarrusso's suggestion -- evince a cheesy Desi Arnaz impression when cracking the joke.

"I Love Lucy" still via HollywoodYesterday.com

 

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is a writer living in New Carrollton, Md.