December 27th, 2008
02:31 PM ET
5 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. Adam Habib, TX

    I am not worried about what the song says about Barack Obama. I am however do now know, how bona-fide GOP politicians feel about Obama and black people. No, I am not black. I am from south east Asia. This tells truly ,the way GOP feels about Obama behind closed door. Majority Americans are kind and elected a minority. They deserve credit. May be they should move on with another political party that is not racially/culturally biased yet fiscally conservative.

    December 27, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  2. curtis in WI

    Behold the power of bad publicity. Of course, if he actually meant it, it wouldn't have taken anywhere near this long to condemn. He would have done it the same day instead of waiting to see how the public reacted.

    December 27, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  3. Josh Syrop

    The NSA should take Saltsman into custody and subject him to the kind of rigorous interegation the Israelis employ when national security is on the line. Let's see how funny he thinks it is then.
    Good for Duncan for speaking up!

    December 27, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  4. Meka

    Being from Tennessee, this is the mind-set of most citizens. I left there early in life, as I make return visits. . .it reminds me as to why I would never live there again. Population of 6% Black Americans, and a high percentage of those have Indian, and White Blood-running through their Veins.

    Attitude of the White Population is that . . . "WE CAN DO AND SAY AS WE PLEASE, WITH NO PENALITY" !

    December 27, 2008 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  5. The Republican Party left me.

    I'm ashamed to say I was ever a Republican or that I listened to Rush Limbaugh.

    There is no place for Racism and Hate. That's all Sarah Palin and he Republican Party knows.

    There is no way they could bring the country together.

    God Bless America.

    December 27, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  6. proudliberal-independent

    let's invite chip to the inauguration in the interests of 'reaching out'. he can sing his song after rick warrens prayer, and then we'll all sit down together and sing kumbaya'll.

    December 27, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  7. DCMata

    Sad to see some of the old KKK white guys..trying to take over the Republican party! Hasn't Bush done enough to destroy the party?

    Most Americans will not buy in to this racisim anymore. The Country is moving past the ignorance that created it! You do not have to be white to be an American- nor do you have to be white to die for your Country!!

    December 27, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  8. Don Fitzgerald, Chicago

    It wasn't condemned because it was wrong, otherwise he would have condemned yesterday. It was condemned as a political strategy. Shame on you, Republicans, you are becoming, totally irrelevant !! Put the hate aside and act like the Party of our great President Lincoln !!
    SUPPORT OUR TROOPS, BRING THEM HOME, ALIVE AND WHOLE. NOW.

    December 27, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  9. Richard Neffson

    And the Republicans wonder why African Americans and other people of color continue to vote Democratic.

    December 27, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  10. Chad Reynolds (Grand Rapids, MI)

    How fitting that these "satirical" songs which breed racism and divisiveness are spread around the republican party by people like Chip Saltsman and Rush Limbaugh. When are Republicans going to start taking a stand against these kind of people in their party? People who clearly just don't get it. You can't come about with blatantly racist phrases and hide behind "joke" or "satire" anymore. Americans and even many Republicans have taken their blinders off. The Republican party needs a makeover from top to bottom to return to it's pre-Bush prominence, or even relevance in our society.

    December 27, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  11. Larry

    It sure was intended as a joke ...

    A Racist joke ...

    By a racist man ...

    The world is not laughing Chip ...

    December 27, 2008 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  12. Allen in Hartwell, GA

    Chip Saltsman might as well be "Joe Six-pack", "Joe the Plumber", or Sarah the Hockey Mom. Too many Republicans just don't understand that this type of "humor" is not acceptable. Worst of all, they are teaching their children and grandchildren to think this way! We might never become a nation of equals, but at least we will know who is holding us back.

    December 27, 2008 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  13. THAT ONE/BIDEN 08

    Certainly a politically expedient move here by Duncan. I bet he heard it and laughed like a hyena.

    From the party that ended slavery to this...

    Way to go Republicans! Hooray for devolution!

    December 27, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  14. The Republican Party left me.

    Chip Saltsman must be kicks out. Every Republican should rise up against him and Rush Limbaugh.

    We cannot tolerate them.

    December 27, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  15. Steve

    Settle down people. It's obvious that "African-American" would have been too long of a word to fit the tune. You guys act like Chip wrote & recorded the song too (uh, he didn't). This is like all of you, and I mean ALL of you, who have forwarded an amusing but inappropriate email to others. You know you are all guilty – whether its African Americans forwarding your friends "cracker" jokes, people sending tasteless anti-Palin jokes. Move on already, Chip is a d-bag, its clear. Everyone has done it but would never admit to it unless you got caught. Doesn't make it right, but quit being so sanctimonious!

    December 27, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  16. Col Mustard

    The comment and the attitude does not represent the entire GOP. It does bring to the front, once again, one of the darker sides of the party. We, as a nation, need to recognize racism in all its insidious forms and look for a way past it. I'm guessing this will end Saltsman's bid for the RNC chair posisition. Let's hope so.

    December 27, 2008 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  17. Steve

    The song illustrates the racism of the left. Read the stinking article you knee-jerk libs. By the way the man who penned the phrase "Barack the Magic Negro" is a liberal, democrat editorialist for the LA Times. I do like how Rev. Sharpton starts protesting and leaves the lyric line at the end of the song.. The bull horn sound effects are priceless.

    December 27, 2008 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  18. S.Positive

    RNC – Racist National Committee
    If this racist party wants to remain in the cold out pf power forever, we the American people will gladly help them do that. The only way they are going to smell power again is to completely reform and there is no other way Racist National Committee. Get it or die.

    December 27, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  19. Megan

    HEY. To those who keep referring to Barack Obama as being 'basically white' or 'only half black', you'd better be prepared to incorporate almost ALL native born black americans into that equation. If you'e so quick to include Barack Obama as being white, you need to understand that most black people in American are EXTREMELY mixed. In most cases we have no idea who our African descendants were. In many cases, most of us have more of everything else than African. So include him if you want, but you have to include the rest of us too.

    December 27, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  20. Mike

    Have any of you heard the song? It is not making fun of PEBO, it is making fun of some of the racist things that a lot of LIBERAL people and publishings had said about PEBO, such as the Times, and Quotes like this one:
    Speaking to the New York Observer: Biden was equally skeptical — albeit in a slightly more backhanded way — about Mr. Obama. “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy,” he said. “I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”

    Gee, sounds like Biden is a bit racist doesn't it.

    Most Americans, including the RNC do not condone racism and are not racist. When did America become so politically correct that you cannot say a thing without hurting someone's feelings? Why is it not ok to say something negative about someone if their skin happens to be black, or brown, or tan, or green, or purple, but its ok to say anything you want about someone if they are white, or a Christian, or from a small town.

    How can racism ever really end if people are so sensitive that they let something as insignificant as a stupid song making fun of people that said stupid things upset them so much?

    And why is it that the Liberals can spew hate for the last 8 years, but if a negitve word is said about PEBO it is racist? JUST BECAUSE I DO NOT AGREE WITH HIM, DOES NOT MAKE ME RACIST.

    December 27, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  21. Jim Hall

    The republican party should be ashamed to itself and offer an appology to President Obama Jim Hall Kansas City Missouri.

    December 27, 2008 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  22. Casey

    Good night Re-Thugs and good riddance. Enjoy your next 8...12...16 years in the wilderness. Maybe you will come back with more ideas and less hate someday.

    December 27, 2008 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  23. Charlie in Maine

    Here is the problem with you right wingnuts spewing such vile hatred: There are valid reasons to have voted against Barak Obama
    1. You make more than 250k and are worried that your taxes will go up. (You are right they will)

    2. You are so against abortion that you are willinh to put the entire world at risk because he might put a justice on the court that will uphold Roe V Wade ( you are right he will)

    3. You own a lot of stock in the oil companies and you think the free ride is over ( your are right it is)

    All you people who think he is secretly Muslim and will make up pray 6 times a day to Allah, who don't think he is a "real American" Who question his patriotism. You are wrong. Frankly I wish I had better news for the resonable people but I don't. The good news is the idiot are wrong.

    December 27, 2008 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  24. Victoria

    I'm glad that someone has the balls to condemn this song.. Sickening.. Seriously, what is this nation coming to?

    December 27, 2008 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  25. John

    I am of mixed race, and our racist president elect called me a mongrel. Will he apologize? You see, some people just want to brand other people as racist, and look for any excuse to do it. Liberals are very good at this. That way they don't have to look at issues...they can just come up with good slogans. (Change, yes we can...do what?, etc.) Independent party (or hopefully a new, constitutionally based) party in 2012. Dems and republicans...you have done plenty...and not too much was good.

    December 27, 2008 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
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