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What exactly did Rev. Jesse Jackson say he wanted to do?

July 11, 2008 | 11:07 am

NEW YORK--The controversy continues over the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s crude disparagement of Sen. Barack Obama that was caught on a live microphone earlier this week.

Aside from those who demand that Fox News air the rest of the remarks Jackson made, a separate debate has erupted over exactly what Jackson said in the footage that the cable news network did run.

The civil rights leader drew headlines after Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly on Wednesday showed a clip of Jackson saying that Obama was “talking down to black people,” adding that he wanted to “cut his nuts off." He made a jabbing gesture with his hand, just to emphasize the point.

Except some heard it as “cut his nuts out.” (Emphasis added.)

The news organizations that reported the coarse language -- many tried to skirt the issue by describing the words more delicately -- were of split opinion about which word Jackson used.


Jackson was apparently unaware his mic was still on after a Fox News interview when he whispered to another guest that Obama, who is vying to become the first African-American president, has been "talking down to black people."

The reverend then added: "I want to cut his **** off."

The Chicago Tribune: (continued below)

The Chicago Tribune:

“I want to cut his nuts out,” Jackson added, gesturing as if grabbing part of the male anatomy and then pulling.


"I want to cut his nuts off,'' Jackson then said, according to a report on the Fox News Web site.


In an aside to another guest after a Fox News Channel interview on Sunday, Jackson had said Obama had been talking down to black people and added: “I want to cut his nuts out.”

"See Barack Obama been, um, talking down to back people on his faith-based -- want to cut his nuts off," Jackson said in a video that aired Wednesday on Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor."

The Associated Press, usually the arbiter on matters on disputed terminology, didn’t even go there:

The Fox News program "The O'Reilly Factor" aired Jackson's comment Wednesday night, including a slang reference to his wanting to cut off Obama's testicles. The report bleeped out the slang but made clear what Jackson said with subtitles.

In today’s New York Post, Washington Bureau Chief Charles Hurt argued that Jackson said “out,” and that the use of that word mattered:

Veterinarians and doctors talk about cutting nuts "off." Only a thug or a gangster cuts a man's nuts "out."

And Jackson knows better than most the vicious symbolism of castration and its blood-soaked link to lynchings in the Old South.

The Los Angeles Times is using the word “off” in its reporting because that is how Fox News –- which has the original tape -- transcribed it on the screen. However, a network spokeswoman said that because of the muffled nature of Jackson’s words on the tape, it is difficult to be absolutely sure which word he used. (The channel also bleeped out the word “nuts,” making it harder for viewers at home to discern exactly what Jackson said.)

So the debate will likely persist -- unless Jackson himself wants to set the record straight.

-- Matea Gold

Screen Grab: Fox News Channel "The O'Reilly Factor"