A heated discussion on Fox News took a turn into the surreal Sunday morning when Donald Trump’s former deputy campaign manager, David Bossie, used a racial insult to deny that there was racism in the White House. The already heated exchange with Democratic strategist Joel Payne, who is black, reached an apex when he accused the administration and its allies of using coded racism to appeal to a certain segment of the population. “You don’t have to be a golden retriever to hear all the dog whistles coming out of the white House these days and from my friend David here,” Payne said.
Bossie then went on to note how former CIA director Michael Hayden compared the child detention centers for migrant children to Auschwitz. “Yeah, that liberal Michael Hayden,” Payne responded sarcastically. “You are out of your cotton-picking mind!” Bossie went on to say for some reason. Payne immediately reacted. “Cotton-picking mind?” Payne said, seemingly shocked at what he just heard. “Brother, let me tell you something. Let me tell you something, I got some relatives who picked cotton, okay?”
The former Trump adviser then proceeded to act offended that Payne would imply his words amounted to a racially charged insult. Host Ed Henry then tried to take control of the back-and-forth and repeatedly seemed to try to imply that Bossie meant to simply say Payne was “out of your mind.” Henry quickly made a mention of the exchange after the segment: “Obviously we don’t appreciate some of the language back and forth, but we’re going to go to break and we’ll come back on the other side.” After the break, Henry issued a lengthier disavowal of the phrase that didn’t quite reach the level of an apology but was pretty close:
I just want to address what happened in that debate, obviously got fiery, David Bossie used a phrase that clearly offended Joel Paine and offended many others. I don’t know what David meant by it. You know, what went back and forth between the two of them. I’ve known David a long time. I’ll let him address exactly what he said. But I want to make sure that Fox News and this show, myself, we don’t agree with that particular phrase. It was obviously offensive and these debates get fiery, that’s unfortunate. We like to have honest and spirited debates, but not phrases like that, obviously. And so I will just leave it at that.
Update, 1:55 p.m.: Bossie issued an apology Sunday a few hours after the show aired. “During a heated segment on Fox & Friends today, I should have chosen my words more carefully and never used the offensive phrase that I did,” Bossie wrote on Twitter. “I apologize to Joel Payne, Fox News and its viewers.” Fox News also issued a statement criticizing Bossie’s words. “David Bossie’s comments today were deeply offensive and wholly inappropriate,” a Fox News spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “His remarks do not reflect the sentiments of FOX News and we do not in any way condone them.”