But, of course, when Stern asked her to tell the joke, she said it on national radio, referring to First Lady Michelle Obama's sense of style:
"We used to have Jackie O," Rivers said, "now we have Blackie O!"
Stern and Rivers then spent their time complaining about how everything's off limits, when it comes to African Americans.
Apparently, they both seemed disappointed about not being able to use racially disrespectful rhetoric that we've been forced to listen to for the past 400 years.
Stern's co-host, Robin Quivers, didn't have much to say either, but then again, that seems to be the role of the trusty black sidekick these days: to give a racial pass when someone says something that might be deemed offensive (perhaps we can call this the "I have black friends" defense).
Don Imus of the "nappy-headed-ho" fame also has a black co-host, who is, of course, a comedian, since black people are so much more fun when they make everyone laugh.
In all seriousness, though, Rivers did try to squash some of the criticism of her joke by saying that she wouldn't be offended if someone were to refer to her as "Jewie O."
The problem with that comparison is that "blackie" is an incredibly derogatory term with indisputable roots in racial degradation.
It is similar to referring to black people as monkeys, showing us eating watermelon or calling us the N-word.
Part of me feels sorry for Rivers.
She grew up at a time when offending black people was simply not a big deal. She gets one plastic surgery after another to hold on to the youth that is slipping through her fingers, and she's as persistent as any entertainer when it comes to maintaining her relevance.
I actually respect her, find her to be very funny and don't consider her words to be malicious, but one thing that Rivers has to understand is that if your goal is to remain truly hip and relevant, you have to realize that America is slowly working to move beyond its racist past.
Calling the First Lady of the United States "blackie" only makes Rivers look like an entertainment dinosaur, which is the opposite of what she's trying to be.
By Boyce Watkins, PhD