Former CNN host Soledad O’Brien said Sunday that the word "thug" has become the new N-word, and said journalists need to think twice before using the term to describe protesters in Baltimore.
O’Brien appeared on CNN's "Reliable Sources" to discuss the media's and politicians' use of the word to label protesters in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old who sustained fatal injuries while in police custody. Even President Barack Obama used the word last week while speaking about people involved in riots.
But O’Brien told host Frank Sesno, who was filling in for Brian Stelter, that "thug" is a "proxy" for the N-word. She said for journalists to debate that is "naive."
When Sesno pressed O'Brien on how she would describe the protesters, she replied that the media need to use more context to describe people's actions. Rather than use the word "thug," she said, journalists should describe the kind of protester the person is -- whether it be violent, peaceful, drunk, angry, etc.
"Journalists should strive to use words that describe accurately what's happening," she said. "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.”