The Rev. Jesse Jackson used an emotionally charged racial slur during a break in a TV interview in which he criticized presidential candidate Barack Obama, Fox News confirmed Wednesday.
The longtime civil rights leader already came under fire this month for crude off-air comments he made against Obama in what he thought was a private conversation during a taping of a "Fox & Friends" news show. In those comments, he contended that Obama wasn't speaking to issues important to the black community and unaware that his microphone was still on, he said, "I want to cut his nuts off."
In additional comments from that same conversation, first reported by TVNewser, the African-American leader is reported to have said Obama was "talking down to black people," and referred to blacks with a slur commonly referred to as the N-word when he said Obama was telling them "how to behave."
Though a Fox spokesman confirmed to The Associated Press that Jackson used the slur, the network declined to release the full transcript of the July 6 show and did not air the comments.
Jackson — who is traveling in Spain — apologized in a statement Wednesday for "hurtful words" but did not offer specifics.
"I am deeply saddened and distressed by the pain and sorrow that I have caused as a result of my hurtful words. I apologize again to Senator Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, their children as well as to the American public," Jackson said in a written statement. "There really is no justification for my comments and I hope that the Obama family and the American public will forgive me. I also pray that we, as a nation, can move on to address the real issues that affect the American people."
A spokeswoman for Jackson's civil rights organization, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, said she could not confirm that Jackson used the slur.
The "nuts" comment came up when a fellow guest asked Jackson about speeches on morality Obama has given at black churches.
During a later news conference, Jackson said that he responded that Obama's speeches can come off as speaking down to black people and that there were other important issues to be addressed, such as unemployment, the mortgage crisis and the number of blacks in prison.
Jackson has called on the entertainment industry, including rappers, actors and studios, to stop using the N-Word. He also urged the public to boycott purchasing DVD copies of the TV sitcom "Seinfeld" after co-star Michael Richards was taped using the word during a rant at a Los Angeles comedy club in 2006.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, who has joined Jackson in opposition of the word, said Wednesday he wanted to hear the comments for himself and declined to discuss Jackson specifically.
"I am against the use of the N-word by anyone and I think we must be consistent," he told The Associated Press. "We must not use the word."