Rep. Doug Lamborn, a Colorado Republican, made the gaffe last week while speaking on a Denver radio show. He allegedly was unaware that to some people, "tar baby" is a racial epithet.
The term "tar baby" has its origin in a doll made of tar and turpentine that was used to entrap the Br'er Rabbit character in the Uncle Remus stories. Though the term is often defined as a sticky situation, it carries some historic usages that are racially insensitive.
The Colorado Springs Republican was discussing debt-ceiling negotiations Friday on "Caplis & Silverman" on 630 KHOW-AM and said he didn't want Republicans to get too cozy with the president.
"Even if some people say, 'Well, the Republicans should have done this or should have done that,' they will hold the president responsible," Lamborn said. "Now, I don't even want to be associated with him. It's like touching a, a tar baby and you get it . . . you know you're stuck, and you're part of the problem now, and you can't get away."
Lamborn's office issued a statement claiming that the congressman was trying to explain that Obama's policies "have created an economic quagmire for the nation and are responsible for the dismal economic conditions our country faces."
The third-term congressman "regrets that he chose the phrase 'tar baby' rather than the word 'quagmire,'" the statement said.
You can read Lamborn's full apology HERE.
"I absolutely intended no offense, and if this is at all on his radar screen, I am sure that he will not take offense and he'll be happy to accept my apology because he is a man of character," Lamborn told The Denver Post on Monday.
Democrats and liberal groups said the "racist imagery" had no place in debt-ceiling debates.
The White House has made no comment on the incident.