Television show host Wendy Williams is facing a backlash across the media spectrum for her controversial comments about HBCUs and the NAACP.


Television talk show host Wendy Williams. (Diane Bondareff/Invision/AP).

On July 6, during the hot topics segment of her show, she brought up TV actor and activist Jesse Williams’ speech about racial inequality at the BET Awards. Her comments quickly took a turn for the worst when she said, “His speech was very poignant, on one hand. On the other hand, you know, I would be really offended if there was a school that was known as a historically White college. We have historically Black colleges. What if it was the National Organization for White People only? There’s the NAACP.

Although Williams is known for never holding her tongue, her usually receptive audience was nearly dead silent.

“Look everybody’s quiet. You’re leaving me out here to dry by myself?” Williams asked the silent audience. “National speeches like this always rub people the wrong way. Just like White people will be offended because Spelman College is a historically Black college for women. You might feel funny about that. I know I’d feel funny like I just told you. If there was a White college or whatever.”

On July 10, Chevrolet reportedly removed their sponsorship from the Wendy Williams show after her ill-advised comments. Andrea Holmes, president and CEO of ACE Media Crop, the company that facilitated the sponsorship, is a graduate of Howard University, an HBCU.

Television commentator Roland Martin slammed Williams for her lack of knowledge about Black history.

“Wendy let me help you out,” said Martin in his TV One news segment. “When you’re on TV and have no idea what you’re talking about, shut the hell up. Don’t open your mouth. Don’t embarrass yourself. Because you sound silly.”

Roland broke down the history of the NAACP, including the fact that it was founded by Blacks and Whites and that the first president was White.

“If you actually bothered to read something, you would realize that,” Martin quipped.

Martin also went on to note that African Americans previously weren’t allowed to attend predominantly White colleges, and that today one in four students at HBCUs is not Black.

“One of the reasons you don’t have historically White universities is because we just simply call them universities,” said Martin.  

Williams was highly criticized on social media, causing her to clarify her statements on her show the next day. On July 7, Wendy Williams told her audience, “On yesterday’s show a lot of you all misinterpreted some of the things I was saying regarding Black schools being Black…I will clarify again…be very clear: I find nothing wrong with historically Black colleges.

“I understand historically Black organizations, universities have been around because we as Black people were not allowed to go to your schools, drink out of your fountains, ride in front of the bus, sit at your countertops. But in 2016, racism is alive and well, very much so,” she added.

She also fought back at online comments comparing her to controversial Black stars Stacey Dash and Raven-Symoné, and reassured fans that she is still on their side. “For the record, no I am not a Stacey Dash. And for the record, I am a mighty proud Black woman,” said Williams.

On July 11, Williams told her audience that she had a phone conversation with Martin, calling him one of her biggest critics. She also announced that Martin would be a guest on her show on July 14.

During their time on Williams’ infamous “purple couch,” Martin further schooled Williams on the history of HBCUs and why such institutions remain viable today.

“When it comes to our colleges, we couldn’t go to schools,” he said. “As a matter of fact, we couldn’t read during slavery. You could be killed if you were found to be reading. So, that’s why it is so critically important… Our institutions are allowing us to survive in America even though we built this country.”

Martin even managed to elicit an apology from Williams.

“First, I want to apologize to everyone that I might have offended regarding my remarks,” she said. “I was wrong.”