(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.