An African-American Republican congressional candidate called President Obama “Buckwheat” during a speech denouncing the president’s health care reform bill on March 22.

However, Florida congressional hopeful Corey Poitier said his comment has been blown out of proportion.

“The press has run amok with this, and turned me into a racist,” Poitier told wire service UPI.

According to Poitier, CNN never bothered to do a follow up interview after reporting his comment, which referred to a character from “Our Gang” and “The Little Rascals.” The character is considered by many African-Americans to be disparaging.

“I’ve never seen Buckwheat as a disparaging character. People love Buckwheat,” Poitier told the Miami Herald

Poitier claims he and his brother have always called each other by that name, substituting the character’s name for the word “dummy” in conversation. Since his comment, Poitier claimed he has received backlash in angry e-mails and Facebook messages since, and has been called an “Uncle Tom” and the n-word. 

Poitier is among nearly a dozen candidates running for the open congressional seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, who is vying for a seat in the Senate. He is the only Republican running to represent the heavily Democratic district that encompasses many areas in Miami.