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. PalinThePolarizer

    You liberals take things too seriously. Like the peace & prosperity of the Clinton presidency. Who would want that? The hate & bigotry of our party lifts us up; makes us feel supreme. Excuse me, I've got to go shoot something defenseless.....

    December 27, 2008 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  2. Zac

    So I guess Don and "aware" just ignore the subject, and post desultory anti-Obama rhetoric, ignoring the topic at hand.

    December 27, 2008 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  3. J-Syxx

    "aware:, you are a phony and everyone knows it. Stop polluting this blog with your lies.

    December 27, 2008 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  4. reginald smith fairfax va

    I WANT TO SEE CAMPBELL BROWN outrage on this. i also want cnn to call leading repubs for their reaction . if they say no reaction print names and tell us who they are. do some reporting for a chnage. the blago story can wait!!!!!!!

    December 27, 2008 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  5. Bill_ MA

    It's good to see the republicans going down for the count. They have hurt our country very much these last eight years.

    December 27, 2008 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  6. Carol, Chicago IL

    "Barack the Magic Negro" and "The Star Spanglish Banner" on the same CD. How inclusionary of him to make sure our two largest minority groups both get slurred.

    I wonder if he knows that there is a link on the RNC website "en Espanol"? Probably not, because this is the party whose power structure revolves around white men over 50.

    Let the Republican hierarchy keep doing stupid stuff like this, and let their supporters protest that it's just political humor. Why? Because they're talking to themselves. The rest of us know better.

    Keep it up, Republicans. You'll be losing the next congressional elections, too!

    December 27, 2008 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  7. Alert

    Funny. People calling Obama white, why, because he does well? Then he "transcends race" or is "white" when no other person in the history of a diverse ancestry has ever been able to call themselves white, now people want him to be. Hilarious and predictable. If you read Dreams From My Father, you would get further clarification on how Obama sees himself and his self-exploration and life experience with race. I hope people realize how racist it is to say Obama is white and not Black. I don't feel it is racist to say he is Black since that is how biracial people have been defined for four centuries by the very same people who want him to be white now. He sees himself as a Black man so I accept him as that. The same way Halle Berry sees herself as a Black woman and her mother doesn't object to that, by the way.

    The RNC, I guess they never want to win an election again. I guess they think the only black people that exist are the ones stereotyped on negative shows and news instead of the millions of youth and tons of seniors and the college educated ones that will keep voting for Obama and those like him. Without embracing minorities and technology, the RNC is dead. Problem is, they can't embrace groups of people that they hate at the core so doesn't really matter. Unless they fabricate some elaborate scheme or lie, Obama has this one in the bag for 2012.

    December 27, 2008 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  8. Rob, Staten Island, NY

    The song is great. The more we parody Obama the Empty Suit, the better. Obama's getting praised for being the first black President....which makes reference to his race. So you can mock that. If liberals don't like it, tough. It's all right for Sarah Palin to be parodied, unfairly or not. Turnabout is fair play.

    December 27, 2008 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  9. CONCERNED DEMOCRAT

    The RNC candidate who sent the CD is now the EX RNC Candidate.

    What a dummy.

    December 27, 2008 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  10. Independent

    The RNC has done a great job of alienating voters who know better than to find racially demeaning "jokes" like this funny. Wake up. They'll need much more than just the white christian vote to survive as a party. If you want o make fun of Obama for spending, fine, make fun of him for that. Don't bring race into the equation. Not only is it bigotry, but also political suicide.

    December 27, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  11. Terry B.

    Way to go GOP!! Don't stop singing your songs, putting up your "we don't get it" adds, or running on the old Gipper theory of winning political races. That way the Dems or Independents are GUARANTEED to win every time..... Biggest bunch of MORONS on the planet I say.....

    December 27, 2008 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  12. Proud American

    Wow where can I sign up for the party of Hate??? What proud red blood American wouldn't want to be a republican. What other country can you go and be a total village Idiot and, call yourself a major party. Republicans are the direct result of inbreeding, most brother and sisters are also first cousins. God Bless America, backward, stupid, village Idiots republicans.

    December 27, 2008 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  13. IMO - Michigan

    I am an Independent! And it is obvious that the most hateful/sick /racist blogging comes from Republicans!

    Grow a soul people!!!

    December 27, 2008 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  14. Alice Newman Center Harbor NH

    So outraged at the Republican hate-mongers and their supporters that I can barely get the words out ...

    The "I was just joking" is what the nasty kids learn on the playground in first grade: they go about hitting, kicking, calling names and being totally miserable pieces of humanity and then, when called to account, whine "I was just joking" .... then they become adults (which is not the same as growing up) and swear blood allegiance to the Republican Party!

    This vicious song has nothing to do with Obama: Bush can not speak in cohesive sentences and Cheney did shoot his friend. Ok to parody real events: But the GOP is so stupid, they can't manage that small detail!

    Shame, shame, shame! Republicans don't want to be part of the solution so they therefore must be part of the problem.

    December 27, 2008 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  15. steve asheville NC

    THIS is who republicans REALLY are, they are mean spirited, they are NOT true christians, they're big platforms are taxes -because the don't care about other people and just worry about getting theirs gay marriage – because they are freaked out about sex and at least half of them are latent/closeted homosexuals and an extreme abortion stance that is counterproductive because they are living in a fantasy world of control and NOT actually looking for intelligent healthy birth control (NO ONE is PRO abortion no matter how they like to describe their "enemies") they can make believe this is a joke, THAT is what they do when they get caught (that and blame it on the booze....) but this sort of mean spirited, racist, derisive, divisive ATTACK the other "TEAM" BS is EXACTLY who they are. I pray that things are as they seem and that america is finally starting to realize that this sort of "screw the other guy" mentallity is un american, unchristian and severely detrimental to our country. rush limaugh and his ilk represent our lower selves, the part of us we try to grow out of when we become adults, the republican party is filled with bad people simply put, they roll around in what is our worst traits and seem to take pride in it, I am and always have been registered non aligned but I have never once voted republican thier outlook, selfishness, and simple MEANNESS disgust me, they have severely damaged our nation, I hope the party falls apart from the weight of this sort of crap that they keep piling on, any decent american is appalled and disgusted by this!

    December 27, 2008 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  16. go away mongers -Ventura ca

    TYPICAL republican actions Their paty is not representative of most Americans- this is just anoher example of why this is so.
    They are pathetic people without hope or credibility!

    December 27, 2008 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  17. Sarah

    If the RNC keep this up, it will insure that they don't get back into the White House. I say to them " Keep it Up '

    December 27, 2008 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  18. 53_3

    The GOP has shown itself to be only marginally smarter than a collection of warm rocks on a windowsill.
    .
    Consider this: Maybe 40% of the Black community is conservative, or would be, if the GOP would finally dump the racial baggage.
    .
    But naw! We're too smart for that. Ahyuh! Ahyuh! Ahyuh!
    .
    Why should we sacrifice "our way of life"** just to pander to minorities! Hedubblehockysticks, even if they did kick our teeth in this last election, along with the rest of America, why should we change our ways?
    .
    YAH! Sarah Palin / Rush Limbaugh in 2012!
    .
    **Courtesy Dogg, the Bounty Hunter

    December 27, 2008 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  19. Dayahka

    Pure racism. It's good to see someone on the Republican side condemn this blatantly racist–and totally regrettable show of bad manners. The KKK must be very proud.

    December 27, 2008 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  20. Independent Dave, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

    Political Satire, thy name is The Republican National Comittee. THAT'S good satire!

    December 27, 2008 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  21. John Bull

    Racist pigs the lot of 'em...

    December 27, 2008 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  22. real dem

    I wonder what Glenn Beck, Campbell Brown, and Naverette will say to this...Probably some type of recluse to offset the bad imagine this imposes on the republican party.

    December 27, 2008 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  23. Steph

    If Obama was white, you would never have heard someone said something like that.

    December 27, 2008 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  24. JP in Atlanta

    If Saltsman really thinks this is not offensive he ought to strap on a pair, go to Harlem, and sing this song. Think he has the stones to do it? Doubt it.

    December 27, 2008 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  25. Gee, Alabama

    Why do people that clearly intent to instigate hatred always afterward claim innocence and/or satire? This is not remotely funny and possibly not even lawful. I've received many emails along these lines from republicans and am time and time again flabbergasted how shameless people abuse the freedom of speech.

    Remember that respect has got to be earned and this is not helping anyone.

    December 27, 2008 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
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