December 27th, 2008
02:31 PM ET
6 years ago

RNC Chair criticizes rival over controversial Obama song

RNC Chairman Mike Duncan criticized the parody CD Chip Saltsman sent to RNC members.
RNC Chairman Mike Duncan criticized the parody CD Chip Saltsman sent to RNC members.

(CNN) – The chairman of the Republican National Committee has become the first major GOP figure to criticize a CD distributed by one of his challengers that included lyrics from a song called "Barack the Magic Negro."

"The 2008 election was a wake-up call for Republicans to reach out and bring more people into our party," Chairman Mike Duncan said in a statement reported by Politico Saturday afternoon. "I am shocked and appalled that anyone would think this is appropriate as it clearly does not move us in the right direction."

Chip Saltsman – who sent RNC members a parody CD for Christmas that included the controversial tune - defended his decision Friday, telling CNN the song was clearly intended as a joke.

(Update after the jump: Blackwell defends Saltsman)

"I think most people recognize political satire when they see it," Chip Saltsman told CNN. "I think RNC members understand that."

Saltsman is a former chair of the Tennessee Republican Party, was a top advisor to former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, and managed former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's presidential campaign.

He is one of several candidates running to replace Duncan in the closely-contested race to lead the Republican Party.

The song, set to the tune of "Puff the Magic Dragon," was first played on Rush Limbaugh's radio show in 2007. Its title was drawn from a Los Angeles Times column that suggested Obama appealed to those who feel guilty about the nation's history of mistreatment of African-Americans. Saltsman said the song, penned by long-time friend Paul Shanklin, should be easily recognized as satire directed at the Times.

The parody CD sent to RNC members this Christmas, first reported by The Hill Friday, is titled "We Hate the USA", and includes songs referencing former presidential John Edwards and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, among other targets.

Also Saturday, Peter Yarrow - who co-wrote "Puff the Magic Dragon" - released a statement through representatives calling Saltsman's decision to distribute the parody tune "not only offensive, it is shocking and saddening in the extreme."

"It is almost unimaginable to me," Yarrow wrote in the statement sent to CNN, that Saltsman "would seriously be considered for the top post of the Republican National Committee. Puff, himself, if asked, would certainly agree."

Yarrow, a member of the 1960s folk group Peter, Paul and Mary, was a contributor to Obama's presidential campaign.

Update: Ken Blackwell, Ohio's former secretary of state and a fellow candidate for RNC chair, defended Saltsman Saturday.

"Unfortunately, there is hypersensitivity in the press regarding matters of race. This is in large measure due to President-Elect Obama being the first African-American elected president," said Blackwell, in a statement published in Politico.

"I don't think any of the concerns that have been expressed in the media about any of the other candidates for RNC chairman should disqualify them. When looked at in the proper context, these concerns are minimal. All of my competitors for this leadership post are fine people."

If he were elected, Blackwell would be the first African-American chairman of the Republican National Committee.


Filed under: Chip Saltsman • RNC
soundoff (234 Responses)
  1. Toby in Illinois

    So the only Republican who criticizes it is a rival. What does that tell us?

    December 27, 2008 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  2. craig

    Saltsman is right, the song is a just a joke. But, the only thing that is funny is that the republicans have become the laughing stock.

    Wake up guys! The country is moving foward and you guys are getting left behind.

    December 27, 2008 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  3. dragonfly777

    Oh and the Democrats can quit playing the poor little victims game. They will cry racist over every little criticism for the next 4 years because they think themselves so enlightened to pick a black President. Obama is nothing but an empty shirt getting ready to plunge us so far in debt we won't know what to do,,

    December 27, 2008 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  4. Colorado Grandma

    Chip Saltsman, you cannot distinguish racism from satire?!....you are the joke. Saddle up your elephant and leave town.

    December 27, 2008 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  5. aware

    I am an Independent! And it is obvious that the most hateful/sick blogging comes from democrats! :(

    Get a life people!

    December 27, 2008 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  6. Walt

    As a long time observer, this attitude of hate set in about the same time as the "Contrac t with America' was initiated. Newt, Tom Delay and Bob Barr plus a lot of others led the charge with most of the hatred directed against the Clintons. It is a sad tribute to a great country that led to the election of the worst administration in US history. In the rebuilding of your country, get rid of the haters, get rid of the ties with socalled religion, Remember "Separation of Powers). and get rid of the GOP. It is not a GOP any longer. It is a POH. Party of Haters.

    December 27, 2008 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  7. Paula

    This is absolutely appalling! When will the RNC realize that it needs to banish the racist attitudes within their party?

    December 27, 2008 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  8. paul brown

    Let us not forgot that the Republican party came into prominence during the civil rights movement of the 60s. Dixiecrats turned into Republicans without hiding their adopted partys' hididen symbols, the burning cross and the white hood. Racisim is part of their DNA.

    December 27, 2008 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  9. what's new????

    nothing. nada. zip. zilk.

    stupidity, which comes with arrogance without exception, ia a life-time illness, with which

    all the republicans and many democrats are inflicted.

    December 27, 2008 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  10. Orville

    I love to watch the RNC implode!...The right wing of the GOP simply is oblivious to what is appropriate and what is not...As long as these type of people are in positions of leadership in the GOP, it simply does not have a chance to gain political traction in the future!

    December 27, 2008 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  11. Xavier

    Bush is in office for 8 years and during that time our civil liberties get trampled. The RNC runs a racially fueled campain against Obama, while falling in love with a woman who refers to democratic leaning states as being less American than republican leaning states. Also, lets not forget that a wall gets built along the Texas/ Mexico border, a move seen by most as being an attack on hispanics disguised as being border security. If the RNC had its way, we would still be under separate but equal laws. Need further proof, look at who showed up, and didnt show up at the RNC convention. You could count the minoroties in one hand.

    December 27, 2008 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  12. aware

    The problem here is that PEBO is basically white. The only black he can lay claim to came from an absent Kenyan father! :)

    December 27, 2008 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  13. Marc

    There are jokes and there are 'jokes'.
    The first ones you laugh when you hear them, even if you're the subject of them. The second ones exposes your true colors.
    We know yours now Mr. Chip Saltsman, let's hope the voters of your state show how 'grateful' they are about your public display of your sense of humor.

    December 27, 2008 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  14. No Hillary = No Obama

    Have Republicans lost their minds? This type of hate – yes, that's what it is – a hate message – gives all those racists legitmate reasons to think and act the way they do and I didn't vote for Obama. How stupid can you be?

    December 27, 2008 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  15. virginia for obama

    I guess "NEGRO" is the new code word for the other "N" word, Boy! I wish all the African American's that belongs to this honorable party would get out and form your own along with other decent conservatives. RNC- how sad you are, coming from a black Democrat and proud of it.

    December 27, 2008 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  16. Don

    You liberals need to read the column in the L A Times. It's the most
    accurate column about Obama I've ever read.

    December 27, 2008 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  17. Randy

    The real problem that this does is by claiming this was all just harmless satire will allow hundreds of harmful racial jokes by GOP members to be thrown around, on the theory that that's ok.

    December 27, 2008 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  18. True Americans?

    The GOP has a very strong and vocal racist group. Led in part by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, the future of the party should be in question. Unfortunately, Rush et al has a huge following and the likes of these people can be found everywhere!..If you doubt this, go to Fox News.com (isn't that an oxymoron?) and read the comment section for most political articles....many comments simply are appalling... People need to wake up and realize that if we remain factious, our great nation will continue to decline!...Read the world wide statistics/rankings as submitted by "THE ECONOMIST"... True Americans are those who can look beyond their immediate self and dedicate themselves to working together in order to fix this nation...the way things are going, the right wing is among the most anti-American group that exists!...we have so much work to do!...

    December 27, 2008 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  19. Tellitstraight

    I have no doubt Mr. Saltsman considered the song penned by Paul Shanklin as prime satire among his friends. However, since the nature of his gift became public knowledge, Mr. Saltsman has been made aware the US of A has made a change in direction. His satire is offensive to many voters the Republican party must woo if they hope to remain a viable influence in the political realm of the country. Mr. Saltsman and his cohorts need to put the past behind them and work with Democrats and Independents to undo the damage his party has rendered in the last 8 years.

    December 27, 2008 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  20. dumas mcgee

    this is just as bad as all the "satire" from the left asking Bush be shot

    December 27, 2008 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  21. chad

    and they try to call themselves the party of lincoln. racist pigs.

    December 27, 2008 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  22. CBA1999

    The GOP should be changed to the GOWP (Grand old White Party). The song is shameful and the party is worse!

    December 27, 2008 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  23. Peter (CA)

    Thank you Mr. Duncan-I'm glad to see somebody got it. Especially since the right wingers on these blogs would not admit how stupid this was.

    And let's stay relevant....it does not matter what Chris Rock says, just like it doesn't matter what Dennis Miller says. They are COMEDIANS not part of the national committee of a major party. And even though the song itself is not aimed at Obama, the title (Obama the Magic Negro) is incredibly offensive. What's next, Lieberman the Magic Jew?

    December 27, 2008 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  24. janet , ohio

    Have you EVER heard the dear Reverend Wright, whom Obama threw under the bus when he needed to, but before that he was Obama's spiritual mentor and pastor for like, eighteen years??? The man is the most openly racist individual you will ever encounter. In his sermons - in church! - he makes fun of white people (the way they talk, the way they sing, the way they worship God) He is such a hateful person, let alone a so-called Reverend, it is truly unbelieveable.

    The song referred to in this article may be disgusting, but so is Reverend Wright, and no one will ever convince me that BO disagrees with him.

    December 27, 2008 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  25. JON

    dragonfly777 you need to watch the news a little more yes games came out when the reporter threw the shoe at BUSH but it was not a Dem that threw the shoe . And if you watch your attack dog Palin everyday she had something of color to say which sparked the crowd to the point of yelling "kill him" . It was John McCain that started the hate campain. It was FOX news that promoted the HATE and it people like you that still have the hate.

    December 27, 2008 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
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