MSNBC and CNBC contributor -- and professed Charlie Crist admirer -- Donny Deutsch used racially charged language on Monday night, smearing Republican senatorial candidate Marco Rubio as a "coconut." Deutsch appeared on HLN's Joy Behar Show and used the word, which both the New York Times and Urban Dictionary define as a "person who is tan on the outside" and "white on the inside." Rubio is the son of Cuban exiles. [Audio available here.]
Deutsch employed the derogatory term while hitting politicians with no experience. He noted the success of such candidates and derided, "...You almost need that blank piece of paper. That's the new model. Like, you know, this coconut Rubio down in Florida."
UPDATE: 2010-02-23 18:20 Deutsch responded on his Twitter page: "I said 'coconut' meaning simple, goofy, bananas...wasn't even aware it could be a racially charged word."
The word has previously inflamed racial tensions. The New York Times reported on October 3, 1996 that Democratic House candidate Victor Morales called a Republican Congressman who endorsed his opponent a "coconut" and was forced to apologize:
But some editorial writers and political operatives feel Mr. Morales may have gone too far last week when he accused Representative Henry Bonilla, the only Hispanic Republican in the Texas delegation and a Gramm supporter, of being a ''coconut.'' The term is used to depict a person as being brown on the outside and white on the inside.
Mr. Morales later apologized. ''In the heat of a deeply felt disagreement, I used terms I should not have used,'' he said.
Ironically, just seconds after calling Rubio a coconut, Deutsch lashed out against tea partiers, slamming them as racist: "No, they're angry- they're basically- their argument is- and I think there's a lot of racism underneath it- is- 'He, they, are taking your civil liberties away. They're stomping on the Constitution. They're telling us how many bullets we can have in our guns.'"
Deutsch regularly appears on CNBC and MSNBC's Morning Joe. Will those networks call on him to apologize? Will they distance themselves from such language?
A partial transcript of the segment, which aired at 9:19pm on February 22 at 9:19pm EST:
JOY BEHAR: Let's talk about the Republican Party. They're becoming- You're a brander. You know about that. They are the party of no. And that's not a good thing.
DONNY DEUTSCH: It's not a good thing. But what they figured out, finally, unfortunately, in the last six weeks, if you think about Brown winning, if you think about in Virginia where they won, if you think about this guy Rubio they're pushing in Florida, they're understanding that just this vitriolic, "We hate Obama. The world is bad," the Sarah Palins of the world, the Dick Cheneys of the world, the Rush Limbaughs, is unelectable. Let's put forward a fiscal conservative, socially- what appears to be socially moderate in terms of whatnot [sic], that's the electable candidate. So they're getting it. There's a difference between-
BEHAR: Who is that person?
DEUTSCH: It's basically it's a Scott Brown. And once again. It's amazing. They're talking about presidential timber. He's never done anything in his whole life. That's the whole thing. It's the blank piece of paper people can assign things to. One of the reasons, interestingly enough, I think we are a society of no right now. One of the reasons Obama got elected, because he was a blank page. You could assign hope to him.
BEHAR: That's true.
DEUTSCH: We're such a media frenzy, 24/7 world that almost anybody that's been around too long, there's so much "no" attached to it, that you almost need that blank piece of paper. That's the new model. Like, you know, this coconut Rubio down in Florida. You know-
BEHAR: What's his name? I don't know him. Rubio?
DEUTSCH: Marco Rubio. He's running against Charlie Crist, who I think has done a great job. And he is the new great, you now, hope down there.
BEHAR: So, basically, these people, the tea partiers are basically angry with the right and the left for the same reason, that there's fiscal irresponsibility?
DEUTSCH: No, they're angry- they're basically- their argument is- and I think there's a lot of racism underneath it- is- "He, they, are taking your civil liberties away. They're stomping on the Constitution. They're telling us how many bullets we can have in our guns."