December 29th, 2008
10:44 AM ET
2 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. Ian Minneapolis, MN

    Ok, I can see why it's not taken as seriously by some of the rupublican politicians, and yes it i'm sure it is funny, for comedy central, south park, family guy, and so on and so forth....but these are our political leaders....every decision they make affects our everyday lives....this kind of humor is not meant to be heard on the political stage....It's time to show a little maturity....I doubt Obama is making a huge issue out of this...lets just let it go, and not let anything like this happen again.

    December 29, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  2. Nonsensical

    This is a hateful CD. I will never vote again.

    December 29, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  3. red

    REPUBLICAN = PARTY OF HATE

    December 29, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  4. Apples for sale

    Cowchip Saltsman is done. The poor dittoheads dont have their daily talking points and hero worshipping, since Rush Limbaugh is on vaction till the 5th.Jason Lewis cant give them their daily fix of hate and lies.Who was poor Mike Connell,the GOP computor geek,that is said to have fixed the 2000 and 2004 elections.His plane ran out of gas just short of the runway.

    December 29, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  5. Republican Genius

    It's a great idea to make racist jokes about the first black president, and call the majority of Americans traitors right after a landslide loss.

    December 29, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  6. Paul in SC

    I can't wait till we have a one party government as it seems most of you Democrats want. Who will you blame and vent your hatred toward then?

    December 29, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  7. AEK

    As a fairly new CNN blog reader I'm struck by a predominant theme in most of the posts, us against them. It occurs to me that our country became great with an attitude of "We the People." We the people will make our country great again, respected by the rest of the world as a model for democracy, respected by the rest of the world for our free economy and respected by the rest of the world because of our human rights policies. In order for this to happen, however, we must first start to respect each other regardless of how diverse our opinions might be.

    WE the People

    December 29, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  8. proudliberal-independent

    lets invite chip and his all white-boy choir to sing at the inauguration. it would be wonderful for bridging gaps......, he can sit with rick warren, and after the ceremony ,we can all sit around singing kumbaya'll.

    December 29, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  9. matt

    Why are all of you acting shocked that Republicans hate black people?

    December 29, 2008 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  10. Robbin

    i am an african american who lives in the south. I feel sorry for my white southern coworkers and friends that are represented by these fools and made to look like Ku Klux Klan members when they are not. The republican party needs to just go away and not come back

    December 29, 2008 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  11. Carole

    Saltsman is being himself. You know the old sayings, "You can clean up a PIG, even one wearing lipstick, and it will still jump in the mud where they love to be." or "You can dress 'em up, but you can't take 'em out.".

    NEWSFLASH: REPUBLICANS ARE DIVISIVE RACISTS! Who knew?

    December 29, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  12. Elaine

    Years back, the GOP had their own version of the merry pranksters, known as the New Jersey Rat Finks. This lovely group put together a songbook including something that makes the currently condemned song look like a kids nursery rhyme. For those who forget, it went to the song Jingle bells and began "Riding through the Reich..." It was a condemnation of the racist and anti-semetic leanings of so many in the party. Things have not changed and, as a result, expect that this little ditty (which I have not heard, since I don't need that running around in my head, too) will be hummed and cherished even as it is condemned.

    December 29, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  13. Art

    The offensiveness of the offense is only offensive if the offended takes offense. I've always wanted to say that. Realistically, I'm a card carrying republican and I think distribution of the CD was inappropriate by any member of the RNC. I think that it was a tasteless gesture that should have never started to begin with. Face it, the Republican Party is taking some serious hits and some need to read the writing on the wall. We do not need our party leadership doing stupid stuff. In my eye, that was pretty stupid.

    December 29, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  14. arc, Lugano CH

    want to be under the sea December 29th, 2008 10:53 am ET
    Why are there so many racists in the GOP?
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    30-40 years ago, a lynch mob of White Southern Republicans could murder a black man by hanging on a Saturday night – and be in church the next morning with their wives and children.

    To answer your question, many 'Country First' Southern White Republicans simply miss 'The Good Old Days'...

    December 29, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  15. Dave in Atlanta

    Anuzis made a sensible statement. The RNC would do well do focus on highlighting the policy differences between them and Obama's administration rather than making "jokes" about Obama's race that aren't even funny. My problem with the joke isn't that I thought it was racist. It's that you have to have a pretty lame sense of humor if you found it funny.

    Anuzis should be the RNC chairman. He's the only one that gets it. At the end of the day it isn't even about whether the song is racist.

    December 29, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  16. BW

    Also...racist Obama supporters...he's half white, half black!

    December 29, 2008 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  17. SOUTHERN HOTTIE

    G O P = KU KLUX KLAN

    POS party.

    December 29, 2008 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  18. For that papacaca

    When the journalist through his shoes at the President, I was very upset, and I am still upset, because I believe we should respect our authority, I felt that man didn't only disrespect the President, but the Americans people. I don't like Bush at all, but because God give that authority I need to respect him as that. When somebody come with something that stupid statement about our next President which I happen to love the Obama famiy, I see that man as stupid, no respect, and I bit you, your children talk to you like dog, because teach them how to respect other people, and it shows you have no character I think the shoe should of been throng at you instead of Bush papacaca.

    December 29, 2008 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  19. GOTCHA!!!

    Rob in NJ December 29th, 2008 11:28 am ET
    He is very shady and who knows what he is going to do.In summary, Obama is the one we need to be worried about because he will soon be President and will have all the power. He is very shady and unless he is watched carefully all sorts of trickery and bad times are head
    ****************************************************************************
    TO–Rob I am shocked that more REPUBS did not denounce this racist joke ....Saltsman know the Repubs well and knew they think like him ...........You would not send a person flowers knowning they are allergic to flowers ....and Blackwell are you aware that the RNC think of you as the HOUSE NIG___

    December 29, 2008 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  20. Matt

    After 8 years of the democrats disgraceful attacks on President Bush, Time posts a simple parody song as representative of the GOP????

    I thought this media bias would lighten up a bit after the media elected their empty suit.

    Guess not.

    December 29, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  21. By George

    How dare we make fun of our president!

    December 29, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  22. Unshrub

    And republicans think they are going to make a politcal comeback real soon??

    December 29, 2008 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  23. Rick

    Honestly people, let's sort the issue:
    1. People have a right to free speech
    2. Political groups have the right to free speech
    3. People have the right to judge either for exercise of said right.
    In short: funny or not, it is inappropriate for ANY party to mail this kind of divisive, insulting, and hating material to their members. Why would anyone think that as a good idea? Did they never play a game at school? Any 4th grader can tell you after the competition it's all "good game" to the opposing side.
    Get over yourselves and grow up.

    December 29, 2008 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  24. Lauren the Designer

    Shameful and not at all surprising.

    December 29, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  25. dwayne1523@yahoo.com

    Oh my God a black president! The world is going to come to an end. This is why the republican party is struggling to find themselves. This is there way of thinking. Maybe if the G.O.B. network would get off there ignorant high horses then maybe their world could start revolving around real issues that affect peoples daily lives in stead of race.

    Just so you "Good 'Ole Boys" know, it's 2008 / '09. Change is not easy, in fact scary at times, but it's necessary! Hang in there...we did for eight years...you'll be just fine. :-)

    December 29, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
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