In a recent discussion about political correctness and whether it has gone too far, President Barack Obama said it’s a “tricky issue,” because “the definition of political correctness is all over the map.”

At one point in his pre-vacation interview with NPR, Obama used himself as an example: “I had to live through controversies like the notion that I was trying to kill Christmas. Right? Well, where’d that come from?

“Well, I bet, you know, well, he said happy holidays instead of merry Christmas. So, that, you know, that must be evidence of him either not being a Christian or not caring about Christmas. It — it sounds funny now, but you’ll have entire debates in conservative circles around that.

“So, it cuts both ways and my advice to young people and my advice to all of us as citizens is to be able to distinguish between being courteous and being thoughtful and thinking about how words affect other people and not demonizing others versus having legitimate political debates and disagreements.”

Obama told NPR’s Steve Inskeep that it’s a good for people to express “broad disapproval” when they hear racial epithets or derogatory words.

“And when you use words like that, you’re reinforcing people feeling like they’re outsiders and less than other Americans. I don’t consider that political correctness, I consider that good manners…”

Obama also warned against “hypersensitivity” that prevents people from expressing their opinions out of fear that they’ll be called racist:


“If sort of our social discourse and our political discourse becomes like walking on eggshells so that if somebody says, you know what, I’m not sure affirmative action is the right way to solve racial problems in this country — and they’re — somebody’s immediately accused of being racist. Well, then, I think you have a point (that political correctness has gone too far) although I happen to approve of affirmative action. But I think that I can have a polite dialogue with somebody who — who differs from me on that issue.”