If you were lucky, you grew up hearing the phrase thrown around by Looney Tunes characters: “Hey, just a cotton-picking minute!”
If you were in trouble, you might have heard it directed at you: “Are you out of your cotton-picking mind?”
And you probably never once thought of it as a racial slur.
Evidently, however, “cotton-picking” — which Webster’s dictionary says is an intensive adjective, like “damned” — has now joined the ever-growing list of words and phrases that could get you in trouble.
Fox News contributor David Bossie found out the hard way.
Bossie, who was President Donald Trump’s deputy campaign manager, got into a heated exchange Sunday on “Fox & Friends Weekend” with Democratic strategist Joel Payne, who is black. Bossie is white.
They were discussing the use of harsh rhetoric, such as Nazi comparisons, in the debate over the separation of illegal immigrant families at the border. Bossie brought up former CIA Director Michael Hayden’s ridiculous comparison of Trump’s immigration policy to the slaughter of millions in the Holocaust.
Other governments have separated mothers and children pic.twitter.com/tvlBkGjT0h
— Gen Michael Hayden (@GenMhayden) June 16, 2018
“That liberal Michael Hayden, that screaming liberal Michael Hayden,” Payne said.
“You’re out of your cotton-picking mind,” Bossie said.
“Cotton-picking mind?” Payne responded. “Brother, let me tell you something, I got some relatives who picked cotton and I’m not going to sit back and let you attack me on TV like that.”
“Attack you how? You’re out of your mind,” Bossie said.
On Fox News, David Bossie, former Trump Deputy Campaign Manager, telling a black panelist that he's "out of his cotton-picking mind." pic.twitter.com/wpoqHKbINw
— Yashar Ali ? (@yashar) June 24, 2018
After a commercial break, “Fox & Friends” host Ed Henry apologized for what had transpired, saying, “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.”
Bossie himself apologized on Twitter after the show, saying, “I should have chosen my words more carefully and never used the offensive phrase that I did.”
Now Fox News has suspended him for two weeks, according to the Daily Beast, which cited “three sources familiar with the situation.”
It could have been worse for Bossie; he could have lost his job permanently. That’s what happened earlier this month to an NBA play-by-play man who used the same phrase.
Brian Davis, the voice of the Oklahoma City Thunder on local TV for 10 seasons, was praising the team’s star for another great play when he said, “Russell Westbrook is out of his cotton-picking mind!”
A few days later, the team announced it wasn’t renewing his contract.
So beware: If you happen to let an old Bugs Bunny phrase slip out of your mouth, it could cost you your livelihood.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.