*Former CNN host Soledad O’Brien, a guest on her old network’s “Reliable Sources” on Sunday morning, said journalists should not refer to Baltimore protests as “thugs,” no matter how violent, because the word lacked descriptive properties and functioned solely as racial code.
“For journalists to have a debate back and forth about thugs or thuggery is naive and misplaced,” O’Brien said. “Journalists should strive to use words to describe accurately what’s happening.”
A semantic debate erupted on CNN earlier this week when Baltimore City Council Member Carl Stokes objected to host Erin Burnett’s use of the word, telling her to drop the charade and just say “nigger.” Stokes continued to draw out the racial implications of the word with numerous CNN hosts.
Guest-host Frank Sesno asked O’Brien if the peaceful protesters would object to the word being used to describe those who just showed up to throw rocks and loot CVSs.
“I think there’s violent protesters, there’s drunk protesters, angry protesters,” she said. “When you look specifically about how the word riot is used, how the word thug is used, it’s always used around people of color, specifically in an inner city context…Journalists should think about a word that actually doesn’t have a lot of nuance and isn’t specific, but somehow seems to be used a lot when talking about African-Americans.”