December 27th, 2008
02:31 PM ET
13 years ago

RNC Chair criticizes rival over controversial Obama song

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="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. Texas Teacher

    Don, you need to get your head out of your as..... mmm... I mean behind and start facing reality. You lost! It's over! At the risk of sounding redundant.... SUCK IT UP! It does not matter what you or anyone else has to say about it.... the PEOPLE have spoken and WE have voted for Barack Obama and Joe Biden. So stop fear mongering and get with the program... and that is that we all start working together to make this country what it was and should be again! That will come with Obama/Biden... not the RNC! AND NO easy task given the mess Bush/Cheney have left us in!

    Just sayin.... 🙂

    December 27, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  2. WIlly Brown

    Heck the song is funny and truthful and a year old. The liberal media coined it a year ago so what's all the crying about now?

    December 27, 2008 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  3. MsRotten

    And they wonder WHY they keep losing?! I am glad that they did this; it shows the RNC's true "colors" and will futher alienate the people they are so desperately trying to "reach out" to. Keep digging your grave RNC.....keep digging!

    December 27, 2008 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  4. Independent in NC

    Inappropriate and foolish, yes, but let's be realistic, racism abounds in our country from every race. I've heard worse from Chris Rock – or is it ok when a black person uses the word? If the racist words are wrong, let's ALL stop using them, not continue letting it be ok for a person of one race to say it but not a person of another.

    December 27, 2008 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  5. LOL

    Typical, they love their redneck, bigot attitudes. There will always be that 20% that will never change.

    December 27, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  6. Dave in Atlanta

    American HAS spoken and you need to get over yourself. You Dumb-a$$!!!

    December 27, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  7. dittoheads are sick

    Tenn. is home the of country music,.

    December 27, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  8. MsRotten

    "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."

    Why isn't Yarrow suing the RNC for using the song without permission? That is a copyright violation. The RNC should be paying royalties for using and broadcasting an artists song.

    December 27, 2008 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  9. dittoheads are sick

    Tenn. is the home of country music and a lot of mentally challanged people.Maybe they need to be boycotted?Dont buy cars or anything else made there.

    December 27, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  10. Raymond Christopher

    I know little about Chip Saltsman but from a commonsense point-of-view why would he think that his action might endear himself to the Republican membership. Unless most of them are as stupid as he is.

    December 27, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  11. Godluvr

    Grand Old Party is now Ghastly Old Party. Chip is a drip, and soon to be oblivious. Comedy is quickly becoming the new race baiting tool. Don't let it happen.

    December 27, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  12. happy new year

    joke or not this hurt many innocent people, i;m glad mr. duncan thought this to be a bad thing, but the damage is done, the republicans need to start over, get rid of saltsman, and palin for beginers, then think of all america, not just rednecks, and super rich, don't forget (we) are in-between there somewhere.

    December 27, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  13. L Song

    The Republican party in this country is terribly out of touch. If you look at the RNC website they try to claim that Obama and his administration will go 'radical left" – this is an utterly inaccurate and dishonest attempt to frighten people away from feeling good about our new government. Chip and his supporters are clearly full of hatred and disrespect. The republicans are doing nothing good for our country with this kind of nonsense. Now is not the time to be divisive and hateful – we need to pull together to try to bring our country up off it's knees. We are in a deep crisis and fear-mongering and ignorance and racism – yes that's right, racism, are NOT what is needed. Calling his cd 'satire' or a 'joke' is dishonest and pure denial. He and those who think this way need to take a deep, long, hard look at themselves.

    December 27, 2008 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  14. Ana


    December 27, 2008 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  15. Lori

    Saltsman is just stating what 80% of the Republicans (including those democrats that switched to McCain/Palin because Hillary didn't get picked) feel. They cannot stand that a black man (who is actually half white) has been chosen by the majority of Americans. They are threatened because for so many years these whites felt as if they were better than black people- even if they were the least educated, poorer whites. I hope the Black Republicans see this and learn. The Democratic Party may not be perfect but at least they were progressive enough to realize our leaders should represent all members of society.

    As for issue of 'white guilt' that was on this CD. The only white guilt I feel is that I have to share the same race with these rednecks that created this CD.

    December 27, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  16. George Ennis, Toronto, Canada

    I just saw the video. Ok so this is the kind of "humor" that the Republican party would like to showcase to the rest of the world? I seriously doubt that many foreigners will be laughing.

    How sad to see the party of Lincoln set ever new lows in terms of the values it represents not only to Americans but to the world. Perhaps this video was only meant for the real America that Sarah Pailin saw when she wasn't looking at Russia.

    December 27, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  17. Kingslough NY

    Stupid stupid stupid..thats what RNC stands for. When will they ever learn that americans are fed up of their divisiveness, they made a point this election and yet they still dont get it??? Wow..

    December 27, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  18. Steve


    December 27, 2008 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  19. Godluvr

    Question? Why is it that when some readers respond to Republican venom it's considered evil, yet when SP and McCain were going around inciting racist comments it was simply political?

    You seem comfortable bashing PE Obama until bloggers call you on your folly. Then you try to turn the tables and throw out labels like 'racist' and 'bigot.' It's not going to work. You see, your history is speaking for itself, and being written even as we speak.

    To aware:
    I beg to differ. You don't seem aware at all. You really need to get a grip. I mean it. Get in a corner, and read a book. How about the Good Book?

    December 27, 2008 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  20. yasmine

    Chip has too much time on his hands.. and whose money funded this CD ???...this just got the RNC the official "racist" stamp of approval...

    December 27, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  21. Give me a break!

    dragonfly...were you on a different planet during the election?

    You reap what you sow. The crying, poor Democrats have yet to reap what they have sown for their viciousness during the election.

    Ummm...I kinda remember the Democratic party taking the high-road ALL of the time and the rallies of McCain/Palin filled with hatred, name-calling, and bigotry. Crawl back under your hole and go back to sleep.

    December 27, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  22. Brandon in DFW

    For all of you who are bashing Democrats or Liberals for being upset about this, please look both ways before you cross the street.

    Name 1 Obama person who has complained about this to the media. Name 1 Democratic leader who has come out against this.

    Yes we as regular Americans are appauled and disgusted with someone running for the Chairmanship of the RNC putting this out. But its Repulicans who are speaking out the loudest.

    No matter what Mr. Saltsman says its still Barack Obama, the first BLACK MAN, that will be sworn in on January 20th.

    December 27, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  23. Keith Bonney

    I keep hearing the democrats are trying to play the victims, well did you morons stop to think you may have offended people of all races, even those who are not Black.

    Most of us take pride in free speech but when your representing a political party you have to be professional not juvenile this feeling of indifference and cynicism I get form the republicans is why i will never support them again.

    I can't stand the idea of standing with people who have abandoned there principles so much they lend there creditability to racists, anarchists, and militias as if to validate these extremists.

    December 27, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  24. Ray, NC.

    As an african american male, a song about a "Magic Negro" is very offensive. I could see if this hatred were being spewed by uneducted people, but these are the elected officials we choose to represent our nation. It's simply unacceptable and Im glad someone said something about it.

    December 27, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  25. markc

    Will the real republican party "please stand up". WE always knew that most republicans are racist and bigots. Thanks for the reminder.

    December 27, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
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