01:43 - Source: CNN
White House Correspondents' Dinner jabs 2016 election

Story highlights

Press Secretary Josh Earnest defended Larry Wilmore's use of the N-word word at the WHCD dinner

Earnest at the White House press briefing told reporters that Wilmore had a tough job

CNN —  

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest defended comedian Larry Wilmore’s use of the N-word word in his remarks at the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner, saying Monday the President “appreciated the spirit of the sentiments that Mr. Wilmore expressed.”

At the White House press briefing, Earnest told reporters that Wilmore had a tough job following President Barack Obama. Earnest said that Wilmore’s comments might have been provocative but that it was done “by design” and was not intended to make Obama the “butt of a joke.”

In his closing remarks at the dinner Saturday, Wilmore offered seemingly genuine gratitude to the President before calling Obama “my n—-.”

“When I was a kid I lived in a country where people couldn’t accept a black quarterback … Now think about that: A black man was thought by his mere color not good enough to lead a football team. And now to live in your time, Mr. President, when a black man can lead the entire free world,” Wilmore said.

“Words alone do me no justice. So Mr. President if I’m going to keep it 100: Yo Barry, you did it my n—-” Wilmore said, pounding his chest. “You did it.”

Earnest said comedians often go “right up to the line” and Wilmore was talking more broadly about the progress made in America in his lifetime.

“Any comedian who signed up to follow President Obama at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner is assuming one of most difficult tasks in comedy. Just by nature of the engagement, that’s a tough job.”

Earnest also told reporters that the White House did not vet Wilmore’s remarks ahead of time.