December 29th, 2008
10:44 AM ET
3 years ago

Most of Saltsman's Republican rivals slam Obama parody

Shanklin’s album is stirring new controversy among conservatives.
Shanklin’s album is stirring new controversy among conservatives.

(CNN) – Republican Party reaction remains divided over the decision of a candidate for party chairman to distribute a CD that featured the parody tune “Barack the Magic Negro,” with the majority of Chip Saltsman’s political rivals criticizing the move.

Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan – battling to keep his job as head of the party – was the first prominent member of the GOP to criticize Saltsman for sending committee members the song.

Watch: Saltsman's CD makes waves in the party

"The 2008 election was a wake-up call for Republicans to reach out and bring more people into our party," RNC Chairman Mike Duncan said in a Saturday statement.

"I am shocked and appalled that anyone would think this is appropriate, as it clearly does not move us in the right direction."

Michigan party chairman Saul Anuzis also questioned Saltsman’s judgment. "In my opinion, this isn't funny and its in bad taste," he said in a statement. "Just as important, anything that paints the GOP as being motivated in our criticism of President-elect Obama by anything other than a difference in philosophy does a disservice to our party."

Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer – who has reportedly been weighing a run for the party’s top spot, but has not officially announced a bid - released a Monday morning statement praising candidates who have weighed in against the "racially-insulting song."

“As the GOP Chairman in one of our nation’s most ethnically and culturally diverse states, I am especially disappointed by the inappropriate words and actions we’ve seen over the past few days," he said. "I am proud of those party leaders who have stood up in firm opposition to this type of behavior."

"Actions such as the distribution of this CD, regardless of intent, only serves to promote divisiveness and distracts us from our common goal of building our party."

Saltsman sent RNC members the parody CD "We Hate the USA" for Christmas, which includes the controversial tune. He defended his decision Friday, telling CNN the song was clearly intended as a joke.

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

Saltsman, 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 the 1960s pop hit "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 CD includes parody songs referencing former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, among other targets.

Ken Blackwell – on of two African-American candidates for party chair – agreed with Saltsman’s assessment, defending him in a weekend statement. "Unfortunately, there is hypersensitivity in the press regarding matters of race,” said the former Ohio secretary of state – who, if elected, would be the first black chairman of the RNC. “This is in large measure due to President-Elect Obama being the first African-American elected president.

“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."

But some younger members of the party were less understanding, as the debate over the satire spread through conservative circles. James Richardson, the RNC’s online communication manager for the 2008 cycle, called Saltsman’s move “quite the revealing faux pas.”

“Granted, he didn’t pull a George Allen and personally call Obama a ‘magic negro,’ but sending a CD with those lyrics shortly after electing the first African American President – one supported by nearly 97% of the African American community – shows a serious lack of judgment, tact, and the necessary level of racial sensitivity expected of public officials,” wrote Richardson, a Red State contributor, on conservative blog The Skepticians.

“And while I’m sure Saltsman doesn’t espouse racist sentiments, this will undoubtedly be spun as an angry, white Southerner stoking the flames of racial tensions after losing to a minority candidate. Hell, why don’t we go ahead and give ‘em the other 3%, too, Chip?”

Most of the candidates for RNC chairman – including Saltsman, Anuzis, Blackwell and Greer – will face off in one week in Washington in a public debate sponsored by Americans for Tax Reform. Duncan, who has been invited, has not yet confirmed his attendance.


Filed under: Chip Saltsman • RNC
soundoff (354 Responses)
  1. In Disarray

    As an African American, I'm not bothered by Saltsman's shallow tactics. I think it's good to see the Republican party in some disarray. Hopefully they stay in that mode for the next 8-16 years so the country can recover from all their clumsy, greedy, selfish ways!

    December 29, 2008 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  2. Richard Rohde

    Based on all of the degradation the South and Southerners are gettting from the dem/elite, is it alright if we secede this time? I am sure the dems can take care of all of the unemployed and the sacred unions without our taxes.

    December 29, 2008 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  3. Noah

    Michael Templer- Are you blissfully unaware of Barack Obama's recent moves to keep Robert Gates in his cabinet and also state that he will not move soldiers out of Iraq prematurely? He is also going to send twice as many troops to Afghanistan. What were you saying about Obama not keeping America in wars??

    December 29, 2008 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  4. Juan Grain

    This guy is a racist to the core. An insecure person that wants to lead. The RNC should throw him and his sheets out into the street. I am an Independent, but crap like this makes me want to go further left, not to far left, but further left and become a moderate Democrat. He reminds me of the kid in school that always started crap and enjoyed watching people hate each other. What a pathetic excuse for GOP leadership. will someone grow a set and kick this guy out of the party.

    December 29, 2008 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  5. Funny? Really?

    This simply is not something that political leaders should engage in or should think is funny in the least. It is divisive and goes against our fundamental beliefs as people of the US. I receive countless emails in my mailbox that are in bad taste which I choose not to forward for this very reason and at times question those who send them. If the republican party wants to know why they lost the election, this would be the reason. They have not yet learned how to unite the people and it looks like it may be quite some time before they do, if ever. My advice....get your head out of your backwoods a$$ and figure it out 'cause you just don't get it. Maybe instead of thumping that bible, you should actually open it up and read it.

    December 29, 2008 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  6. mel

    staff of sarah palin were sending racist e-mails about pe obama on state property. did she get upset – no – she said – well it was only a few.

    December 29, 2008 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  7. BDV

    Democrats are mean. They made fun of McCain's torture-induced handicap, and they hate Palin's mentally-challenged son.

    Funny how often the southern United States has been bashed in these comments. Isn't that predudicial and stereotyping? Or is that OK...this time?

    December 29, 2008 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  8. NY republican

    Can anyone think of a better way to send a bad comedy CD to the Platinum sales chart, I can't all this free publicity is pure gold for a struggling comedian. Especaillly one that should stay struggling!! PAUL SHANKLIN (NOT CHIP SALTSMAN OR THE REPUBLICAN PARTY RACK AND FILE) did the same thing to B. Obama that Tina Fey and SNL did to S. Palin. I'm not hearing the laughter this time though. How many of you laugh at an "ethnic" joke at a party? So it's funny when it's aimed at a Republiclan but not when aimed at a Democrat, I get it now. :) Take the time to laugh this year, just once, it won't hurt I promise (even if it's at yourself, actually especially if it's at yourself).

    December 29, 2008 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  9. Thomas

    Wow, NY Republican, just...wow. The ignorance of that statement is staggering, to say the least.

    December 29, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  10. BatCat05

    If the song is supposed to a funny "parody", why were only a select few sent a copy ? Did he send one to the President elect and his family? I was born at night but not last night, Chip Saltsman. Enough of the stupidity toward the president-elect. America voted. Lets get on with fixing the nation's problems and out of Iraq.

    December 29, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  11. Juan Grain

    Saltsman & Limp-Log the magic crackers, Yes they are magically destroying the GOP. Them and Yellow Snow gurl Palin! We will have to change the party name to the R-otten N-ut C-ases, ha.

    December 29, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  12. Carrie Goodeagle Hayden, Idaho

    Racism is a disease, similar to syphllis, it eats your brain up Sad to say most of the racist republicans are those born-again nut cases. But there are decent republicans, Chuck Hagel, Colin Powell, Kaye Bailey Hutchinson, so there is some hope, they need to clean their house and quit catering to the religious right nuts.

    December 29, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  13. Casey

    I hear the argument from my step-father all the time; republicans freed the slaves and were the basis of the civil right's movement in american politics. I'll tell you what I tell him, if the republicans were still the republicans of Lincoln and civil rights, I would vote for them. But they left that behind some time ago now.

    December 29, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  14. Mike

    Political satire is perfectly fine, we do it all the time but it came from the completely wrong group of people. If that same CD came from SNL or Mad TV or some group along those lines I think it would be perfectly alright because we know their sense of humor.

    But since it came from the GOP i don't really think it was in the best of spirits, it would be naiieve to think that they were doing just a funny satire. To me it seems really bitter and childish coming from people that are supposed to be running this country.

    December 29, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  15. Carrie Goodeagle Hayden, Idaho

    Racism is a disease, similar to a syphyllis it destroys your brain. Sad to say most of the racist republicans are those born-again nut cases. But there are decent republicans, Chuck Hagel, Colin Powell, Kaye Bailey Hutchinson, so there is some hope, they need to clean their house and quit catering to the religious right nuts.

    December 29, 2008 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  16. WhoCares?

    "It was funny when Democrats slammed Sarah Palin and made up all kinds of disgusting songs about her but this is just pure bigotry! You liberals sure are great hypocrites, I will give you that."

    Hey Noah.

    Can you show me the song sent out by a Democratic politician that was anti-Palin?

    I will wait.

    December 29, 2008 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  17. An Opinionated Caucasian

    The GOP rightly has a reputation as the party that will play on white racist fears to win elections. This reputation was not started by the "Willie Horton" ad in 1988 but that is one very visible symbol of it that most political science students will recognize.

    Other unspoken undercurrents in the political ether of some people's minds are that ...

    Criminal black men want to rob & beat up white men
    Black men want to forcibly "take" white women out of rage
    Unqualified minorities want to take your job, Mr. White Man so that you can't provide for your family.

    If I thought about it, I'm sure I could find others includind some very recent ones.

    Saltsman says he wants to be a leader of the party. No leader, that is capable of leading the party to victory, would be STUPID enough to do this. It is exactly 180 degrees from what the Republicans need right now.

    The GOP is like the American car industry in the 1970s .... it will be 30 years before they correct their quality problem.

    December 29, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  18. Jerry Centralia, Illinois

    These are not joking times. Jerry SEAL 1

    December 29, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  19. Sam, Muncie, Ind.

    I'm shocked, SHOCKED that Republicans would find this funny. I mean, there's a reason it's a regional party, and that region is chock full of backwards-thinking, racist rubes.

    December 29, 2008 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  20. PA politico

    This is unfortunate but not worthy of much news coverage. There are plenty of racists in both parties, get on with it.

    December 29, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  21. Bill, Streamwood, IL

    What I find utterly disheartening about this whole issue is that none of the viable 2012 GOP prresidential frontrunners such as Palin, Thune, Jindal or Romney have had the integrity or leadership to take a stand against this tastless satire.

    December 29, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  22. Sick Personon Board!!!

    TO–BDV December 29th, 2008 2:46 pm ET
    Democrats are mean. They made fun of McCain's torture-induced handicap, and they hate Palin's mentally-challenged son.
    YOU ARE LIAR!!!!

    December 29, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  23. Funk

    I find it hard to believe that some of these people own a computer.

    December 29, 2008 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  24. Jason

    Anyone who thinks all people from the south are Republicans or racist or that all Republicans are racist are pretty ignorant themselves and pretty much racist in thinking too. When you stereotype a group of people by the actions of a few, then that makes you racist too.

    Seriously . . . stupidity and ignorance is being spouted in here from both Democrats and Republicans. Neither side is better than the other but unfortunately too many of you are too clueless to see past party lines or political dogma.

    I don’t have much faith in America with the intelligence being shown in here . . . when a below average candidate like Obama is heralded as a historic choice for president just because he beat out another below average candidate then we really do have a problem. I don’t vote to make history due to race . . . I vote to make this country better. Too bad so many of you believed in hype over substance and felt that McCain and Obama were the best choices we had.

    December 29, 2008 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  25. Dan

    Funny how this Republican "Parody" sounds just like their campaigns.

    December 29, 2008 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
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