Pinko is a term for a person regarded as being sympathetic to communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

, though not necessarily a Communist Party
Communist party
A political party described as a Communist party includes those that advocate the application of the social principles of communism through a communist form of government...


The term has its origins in the notion that pink is a lighter shade of red, the color associated with communism. Thus pink could be thought of as a "lighter form of communism" promoted by supporters of socialism
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

 who were not, themselves, "card-carrying" communists.


The word pinko was coined by Time
Time (magazine)
Time is an American news magazine. A European edition is published from London. Time Europe covers the Middle East, Africa and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong...

magazine in 1925 as a variant on the noun and adjective pink, which had been used along with parlor pink since the beginning of the 20th century to refer to those of leftish sympathies, usually with an implication of "effeteness". In the 1920s, for example, a Wall Street Journal editorial described supporters of the progressive
Progressivism in the United States
Progressivism in the United States is a broadly based reform movement that reached its height early in the 20th century and is generally considered to be middle class and reformist in nature. It arose as a response to the vast changes brought by modernization, such as the growth of large...

 politician Robert La Follette
Robert M. La Follette, Jr.
Robert Marion "Young Bob" La Follette, Jr. was an American senator from Wisconsin from 1925 to 1947, the son of Robert M. La Follette, Sr., the brother of Philip La Follette, and Fola La Follette, whose husband was the playwright George Middleton.- Early life:La Follette was born in Madison,...

 as “visionaries, ne’er do wells, parlor pinks, reds, hyphenates [Americans with divided allegiance], soft handed agriculturalists and working men who have never seen a shovel.”

Pinko and pinky were widely used during the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

 to label individuals accused of supporting the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, including many supporters of ex-vice president Henry Wallace
Henry A. Wallace
Henry Agard Wallace was the 33rd Vice President of the United States , the Secretary of Agriculture , and the Secretary of Commerce . In the 1948 presidential election, Wallace was the nominee of the Progressive Party.-Early life:Henry A...

's 1948 U.S. presidential campaign with the Progressive Party
Progressive Party (United States, 1948)
The United States Progressive Party of 1948 was a left-wing political party that ran former Vice President Henry A. Wallace of Iowa for president and U.S. Senator Glen H. Taylor of Idaho for vice president in 1948.-Foundation:...

. The word was predominantly used in the United States, where opposition to Communism grew strong among the population, especially during the McCarthy era
McCarthyism is the practice of making accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence. The term has its origins in the period in the United States known as the Second Red Scare, lasting roughly from the late 1940s to the late 1950s and characterized by...

. It was also in common use in South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

 during the apartheid era. In his two presidential campaigns, Alabama
Alabama is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and Mississippi to the west. Alabama ranks 30th in total land area and ranks second in the size of its inland...

 governor George Wallace
George Wallace
George Corley Wallace, Jr. was the 45th Governor of Alabama, serving four terms: 1963–1967, 1971–1979 and 1983–1987. "The most influential loser" in 20th-century U.S. politics, according to biographers Dan T. Carter and Stephan Lesher, he ran for U.S...

 often railed at "the left-wing pinko press" and at "pseudo-pinko-intellectuals."

Some of the most infamous uses of the term pink came during future president Richard Nixon
Richard Nixon
Richard Milhous Nixon was the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974. The only president to resign the office, Nixon had previously served as a US representative and senator from California and as the 36th Vice President of the United States from 1953 to 1961 under...

's 1950 Senate campaign against Helen Gahagan Douglas
Helen Gahagan
Helen Gahagan was an American actress and politician. She was the third woman and first Democratic woman elected to Congress from California; her election made California one of the first two states to have elected female members of the House from both parties.-Early life and acting...

: "She's pink right down to her underwear!" — a play on the fact that, at the time, pink was the usual color of women's undergarments. Nixon regularly referred to her as "the Pink Lady", and his campaign distributed political flyers printed on sheets of pink paper.

Popular culture

One of the most famous uses of the term in popular culture was the ironic use by Charlie Daniels
Charlie Daniels
Charles Edward "Charlie" Daniels is an American musician known for his contributions to country and southern rock music. He is known primarily for his number one country hit "The Devil Went Down to Georgia", and multiple other songs he has performed and written. Daniels has been active as a singer...

 in his breakthrough 1972 hit "Uneasy Rider
Uneasy Rider
"Uneasy Rider" is a 1973 song written and performed by American singer and multi-instrumentalist Charlie Daniels. It consists of a narrative that is spoken rather than sung over a guitar melody and is sometimes considered a novelty song...

." The dope-running hippie narrator is stuck with a flat tire in Jackson, Mississippi. Attempting to avoid a beatdown by the locals, he attempts to deflect attention to one of the locals by accusing him of being "a friend of them long haired, hippie-type, pinko fags" sent by the FBI to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan.

Flamboyant hockey commentator Don Cherry
Don Cherry
Don Cherry may refer to:* Don Cherry hockey player, coach, and commentator* Don Cherry , trumpeter* Don Cherry...

 used the term 'pinko' while introducing Toronto's new mayor Rob Ford
Rob Ford
Robert Bruce "Rob" Ford is the 64th and current Mayor of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He was first elected to city council in the 2000 Toronto municipal election, and was re-elected to his council seat in 2003 and again in 2006...

. “I’m wearing pink for all the pinkos out there that ride bicycles and everything..."

Archie Bunker
Archie Bunker
Archibald "Archie" Bunker is a fictional New Yorker in the 1970s top-rated American television sitcom All in the Family and its spin-off Archie Bunker's Place, played to acclaim by Carroll O'Connor. Bunker is a veteran of World War II, reactionary, bigoted, conservative, blue-collar worker, and...

, the patriarch of the Bunker family in the 1970s sitcom All in the Family
All in the Family
All in the Family is an American sitcom that was originally broadcast on the CBS television network from January 12, 1971, to April 8, 1979. In September 1979, a new show, Archie Bunker's Place, picked up where All in the Family had ended...

often derisively used the term 'pinko' when referring to his liberal son-in-law Michael "Meathead" Stivic or Michael's friends.

Tabloid-TV talk show host Morton Downey Jr. was famous for using the term to berate nearly anyone who disagreed with him.

The term was used repeatedly on the television series John Safran vs God
John Safran vs God
John Safran vs God is an 8 part television documentary series by John Safran which was broadcast on SBS TV of Australia in 2004. It has been described in a media release as "John Safran's most audacious project yet". It had a much more serious tone than Safran's previous work Music Jamboree...

when Safran
John Safran
John Safran is an Australian documentary maker and radio broadcaster, known for combining humour with explorations into religion and other issues...

 is referring to his target demographic. Safran is likely to have intentionally referenced Daniels' "Uneasy Rider", and notably Safran had on a previous episode infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan
Ku Klux Klan
Ku Klux Klan, often abbreviated KKK and informally known as the Klan, is the name of three distinct past and present far-right organizations in the United States, which have advocated extremist reactionary currents such as white supremacy, white nationalism, and anti-immigration, historically...


During an interview with CNBC
CNBC is a satellite and cable television business news channel in the U.S., owned and operated by NBCUniversal. The network and its international spinoffs cover business headlines and provide live coverage of financial markets. The combined reach of CNBC and its siblings is 390 million viewers...

 economist Jim Cramer, political satirist Stephen Colbert
Stephen Colbert
Stephen Tyrone Colbert is an American political satirist, writer, comedian, television host, and actor. He is the host of Comedy Central's The Colbert Report, a satirical news show in which Colbert portrays a caricatured version of conservative political pundits.Colbert originally studied to be an...

 called senior Comedy Central
Comedy Central
Comedy Central is an American cable television and satellite television channel that carries comedy programming, both original and syndicated....

 and The Daily Show
The Daily Show
The Daily Show , is an American late night satirical television program airing each Monday through Thursday on Comedy Central. The half-hour long show premiered on July 21, 1996, and was hosted by Craig Kilborn until December 1998...

 host Jon Stewart
Jon Stewart
Jon Stewart is an American political satirist, writer, television host, actor, media critic and stand-up comedian...

 a pinko.

In the TV sitcom Seinfeld
Seinfeld is an American television sitcom that originally aired on NBC from July 5, 1989, to May 14, 1998, lasting nine seasons, and is now in syndication. It was created by Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld, the latter starring as a fictionalized version of himself...

, Jerry's father Morty refers to the newsletter put out by the residents' association of his Florida condominium as "a pinko commie rag."

In the movie The Boondock Saints
The Boondock Saints
The Boondock Saints is a 1999 American action comedy film written and directed by Troy Duffy. The film stars Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus as Irish fraternal twins, Connor and Murphy MacManus, who become vigilantes after killing two members of the Russian Mafia in self-defense...

, "Funny Man" Rocco (played by David Della Rocco
David Della Rocco
David Della Rocco is an Italian-American comedian and actor best known for his supporting role in the 1999 film The Boondock Saints...

) insults one of the Russian mafia thugs by joking that his "pinko Commie mother sucks so much dick, her face looks like an egg", and is then punched in the face as the bar fight scene begins.

Radio show host Cenk Uygur
Cenk Uygur
Cenk Kadir Uygur , is the main host and co-founder of the liberal Internet and talk radio show, The Young Turks . A naturalized U.S. citizen, Uygur was born in Turkey and raised from age eight in the United States. He worked as an attorney in Washington D.C. and New York before beginning his career...

 uses the term "commie pinko" satirically in regard to conservative commentators calling the President
A president is a leader of an organization, company, trade union, university, or country.Etymologically, a president is one who presides, who sits in leadership...

 a socialist

In the Beavis and Butt-head
Beavis and Butt-Head
Beavis and Butt-head is an American animated television series created by Mike Judge. The series originated from Frog Baseball, a 1992 short film by Judge. After seeing the short, MTV signed Judge to develop the concept. Beavis and Butt-head originally aired from March 8, 1993 to November 28, 1997...

 episode titled "Be All You Can Be", the Sergeant at the military recruiting station says "Seems you boys joined by assigning youselves a rank. So, which one of you signed up as "Major Woody" and "Private Parts?!" Why you little pinkos!"".

In the 2010 video game Battlefield: Bad Company 2
Battlefield: Bad Company 2
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is a first-person shooter video game developed by the Swedish firm EA Digital Illusions CE and published by Electronic Arts for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, iOS and Mac OS X systems. It is a direct sequel to Battlefield: Bad Company and is part of the...

, a soldier named Haggard calls his pilot a "Pinko liberal space muffin" after he reveals he's a pacifist.

In the sixth episode of the second season of science-fiction television series Fringe
Fringe may refer to* Fringe , that part of the hair overhanging the forehead, also known as bangs in American English* Fringe , an ornamental appendage to the border of an item* Fringe , a U.S...

, a Russian cosmonaut is at the center of the investigation for seeking and killing for radiation through his shadow entity. When dr. Walter Bishop comments on Russian fringe science
Fringe science
Fringe science is scientific inquiry in an established field of study that departs significantly from mainstream or orthodox theories, and is classified in the "fringes" of a credible mainstream academic discipline....

, he refers to the pinkos as "Billy and I were always amazed at their advancements. Even forty years ago, you wouldn't believe what those pinkos were up to."

In his review of the movie Larry Crowne
Larry Crowne
Larry Crowne is a 2011 American romantic comedy film starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. The film was directed by Hanks, who co-wrote its screenplay with Nia Vardalos...

 on CBS's Sunday Morning
Sunday Morning
Sunday Morning may refer to:* "Sunday Morning" , a Canadian radio program formerly aired on CBC Radio One* CBS News Sunday Morning, a television news program on CBS in the United States...

 David Edelstein describes the movie as "...a thoughtful portrait of middle-class life in the age of corporate capitalism, and of (pay attention, class) people who survive without becoming either zombie wage-slaves or pinko malcontents."

In a sketch on the May 21, 2011 airing of Saturday Night Live
Saturday Night Live
Saturday Night Live is a live American late-night television sketch comedy and variety show developed by Lorne Michaels and Dick Ebersol. The show premiered on NBC on October 11, 1975, under the original title of NBC's Saturday Night.The show's sketches often parody contemporary American culture...

, an elderly newscaster named Herb Welsh (played by Bill Hader
Bill Hader
William "Bill" Hader is an American actor, comedian, producer and writer. He is best known for his work as a creative consultant on the hit show South Park and as a cast member on Saturday Night Live and for his supporting roles in comedy films such as Superbad, Hot Rod, Tropic Thunder,...

) would often ask unrelated questions to the report, one being "Do you think Lucille Ball
Lucille Ball
Lucille Désirée Ball was an American comedian, film, television, stage and radio actress, model, film and television executive, and star of the sitcoms I Love Lucy, The Lucy–Desi Comedy Hour, The Lucy Show, Here's Lucy and Life With Lucy...

 is a pinko?".

See also

  • Fellow traveler
  • Useful idiot
    Useful idiot
    In political jargon, the term useful idiot was used to describe Soviet sympathizers in Western countries. The implication is that though the people in question naïvely thought themselves an ally of the Soviet Union, they were actually held in contempt and were being cynically used...

  • Anti-communism
    Anti-communism is opposition to communism. Organized anti-communism developed in reaction to the rise of communism, especially after the 1917 October Revolution in Russia and the beginning of the Cold War in 1947.-Objections to communist theory:...

  • Political colour
    Political colour
    Certain political parties or positions have become associated with different colours at different times.-Colours:*Black is primarily associated with anarchism and fascism ....

  • Red Scare
    Red Scare
    Durrell Blackwell Durrell Blackwell The term Red Scare denotes two distinct periods of strong Anti-Communism in the United States: the First Red Scare, from 1919 to 1920, and the Second Red Scare, from 1947 to 1957. The First Red Scare was about worker revolution and...

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