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Posted by on May 15, 2008 in Politics | 20 comments

Obama’s not quite Macaca moment, but “sweetie” reporter none too happy (UPDATED)

Okay – can we just get this out of the way? Watch for yourself:

Now, look – I chastise my father whenever he calls me anything remotely close to sweetie, and he’s used a whole bunch of those terms (let me be brutally honest since my mother reads this blog but my father doesn’t: I hate it when my father uses alleged terms of endearment like “doll” “babe” or “baby” – but I don’t like it when anyone calls me those things either – never have).

And after watching the clip, I believe Barack Obama when he says it’s a bad habit, as here in the Detroit Free Press:

Sen. Barack Obama, who is edging toward the Democratic presidential nomination, offhandedly called a Detroit television reporter “sweetie” during a tour Wednesday of Chrysler’s Sterling Stamping Plant in Sterling Heights after she hurled a question at him: “Senator, what are you going to do to help American autoworkers?” The incident got picked up by the national news media, and the video, which shows Obama saying, “Hold on one second, sweetie, we’ll do a press avail,” to WXYZ-TV (Channel 7) reporter Peggy Agar, is playing on

Several hours later, Obama left a message on Agar’s cell phone, apologizing.

“It’s a bad habit of mine,” he said in the voice mail, which is on the TV station’s Web site. “I mean no disrespect, so I am duly chastened on that front.”

Agar said in a televised report that she was more upset that Obama didn’t answer her question.

But you know what? That not answering the question, that’s exactly right. Enough readers have seen how I get when I don’t get my questions answer. And the “sweetie” spin is a very, very common way of trying to say, in what too many people find to be an acceptable tactic, “now calm down there – I’ll get to you when I’m ready – you little woman you” kind of thing.

It is a bad habit, and a lot of people do use it, men and women – I use it with my kids to put them off or cool their jets.

So you better believe Obama had an intention, even if unconscious, that when he is soothing with sweetie, the tough question can be finessed away. Calm down, now – I’ll get to you when I’m ready, don’t you worry now.

But he never did get to the question.

So why doesn’t this rise to the level of a macaca moment? Because a lot of politicians use similar techniques with the media, and private citizens use it too. It’s too common a bad habit to make it a macaca moment, which was really quite outrageous and mean-spirited.

However, the good senator would be very wise to work on undoing that bad habit because at its base? It was an avoidance tool that got turned at a female reporter. I understand it in context, but a lot of people, particularly men and women of voting age – may not.

See also The Moderate Voice’s Joe Windish’s post on the incident. T-Steel leaves a comment mentioning that the sweetie involved is a “good reporter” whom he sees all the time on the Detroit news (that’s very helpful commentary – thank you btw).

Cross-posted at Writes Like She Talks.

The Los Angeles Times’ Andrew Malcolm covers the incident and writes, in part:

Later, the station said Obama had left an apology on the reporter’s phone, admitting he had a problem calling women “sweetie” and saying he intended no disrespect.

If there’s no disrespect intended, why wouldn’t he have used it during, say, one of his debates against Sen. Hillary Clinton? “Now, Sweetie, you’re not describing my health care plan accurately.” How would that go over?