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. (Former) Lifelong Republican for Obama, Columbia, TN

    I am glad that someone from the RNC has said something about this racist song. Still, the GOP is lost. They need to appeal to a broader population of voters and they are not doing it.

    December 27, 2008 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |

    I thought I have seen it all after GW; but the stupidity of the republican bigots and hate-mongers is a gift that keeps on giving!

    December 27, 2008 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  3. Concerned Texan

    We should be thankful for people like Chip because he makes no attempt to hide what the southern based christian right thinks of society as a whole. They are sooo mad that someone that does not look like them did not win the White House and they are still fuming about it and this is one way to show their 3rd grade mentality. More than likely he is a member of the southern babtist convention. BTW his next target will be RNC Chairman Mike Duncan and the rest of those seeking the RNC chairmanship. Ignorance does not take an off-day.

    December 27, 2008 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  4. Megan

    and Dragonfly777– your commentary is moronic. Obviously youre bitter about Obama's win but dont let it take hold of what limited rationale you might have. We are coming away from a President who squandered away a surplus within his first two years, is spending billions on a pointless war, and you're woried about Obama plunging us into debt? Get a life buddy. Dont let your sour grapes keep you from seeing whats right and wrong- such as the fact that racism is never okay regardless of whether youre bitter or not. Also, worry more about getting a proper education and supporting yourself then President Obama's plan to get us out of this mess.

    December 27, 2008 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  5. Jeff

    This is probably what you can expect from a party that got 90% of its votes from white Americans in the most recent Presidential election.

    Its a sad commentary on a party that is moving from national to regional before our eyes. The worse commentary will follow on Monday, when Rush rails against those who spoke out against this song.

    The conservatives, who are different from other Republicans, still haven't figured out, that when you are in a hole, a shovel may not be your best tool.

    December 27, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  6. clarity

    These guys won't see the inside of the White House for years to come!

    December 27, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  7. Mike, Cleveland, Ohio

    Saltzman, Limbaugh, and the song writer are unpatriotic, american-hating, traitors and so are the people who defend these morons.

    Of course I'm being mildly saracastic but I'm trying to show the Reps how stupid they sound by saying the same stuff back to them.

    All I heard from conservatives was "Bush is our Prez, you must show him respect." And then they go and defend Saltzman, Limbaugh, and their ilk. All the while showing the same disrepect, though this isn't an example of disrepect that was warranted, whereas the criticism of Bush was.

    December 27, 2008 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  8. mb

    Saltsman, thought he could get away with this, after vp candidate sari palin spewed her ignorance. The RNC, nor mccain called for her to stop or apologize for it. I know it is not going to happen, but it would be nice of Pres.Bush as still the leader of the Republican Party to denounce this type of action along with Senator McCain or the US will be bringing troops home to stop the next civil war here.

    December 27, 2008 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  9. Cliff Dillmann

    As much as the Obama victory and Clinton's near victory signaled a national change as race and gender became less important than merit, the response of talk radio, the far right, and now the Republican National Party with "the Magic Negro" reveals the pockets of sickness that remain.

    Will these groups continue to be marginalized and reduced in significance or are they work a more active attack in the press, courts, and the political arena?

    December 27, 2008 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  10. bk

    It is no worse than Obama calling his grandmother a "Typical White Person.' Why don't you read Michelle's thesis and tell me who is racist and you think its ok for them to attend a white hating church? Get a life! The Obama's are more racist than any white person I know.

    December 27, 2008 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  11. walter and Carol

    There is stupid people in the world and then their is ignorant people and they are the ones who keeps racism alive and still going in this world like Chip dumb................

    December 27, 2008 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  12. Brian

    Mr. Saltsman is proving himself to be a total idiot, w/ the backing of others of like ilk (Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, et al). This isn't political satire, it's trash. Wake up, fella's. The days of bigotted humor are rapidly ending.

    December 27, 2008 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  13. 24 More Days!!

    He took his sweet time to respond. Waited to see the fall out before he realized it was an immature, pathetic move, then it was satire and now it is something to criticize.

    The Republican party is a big tent of haters: some are racists, some hate gays and lesbians, some hate all religions other than their own form of "Christainity," some hate science, some hate poor people, most hate people who don't agree with their views based on their reading of The Bible.....the list goes on!!

    December 27, 2008 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  14. Flo

    Apparently Saltzman is the only one LHAO along with Hannity, Rush, rove and friends. To Mr. Duncan too little too late for the RNC their members have made it clear that minorities are not welcomed unless they can tolerate insensitive jokes. And we wonder why people around the world don't have any respect for US president (i.e. shoe throws). We Americans don't respect the office of the President.

    We are doomed unless we can restore civility in this country.

    December 27, 2008 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  15. dan

    Clueless. Simply clueless.

    If you don't understand why this song is are also clueless.

    December 27, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  16. Sam

    Thank you RNC for the HOT "PALIN-SALTSMAN" ticket in 2012!

    Another sure term for OBAMA! Hooray!

    December 27, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  17. rebuffed dragon

    To dragonfly777...

    Are you one of those reincarnated bigots from the civil war era! To your 2nd comment....empty shirt....8 yrs ago, Clinton left Bush with complete full Bush leaves office without even a shirt on his own back.....who plunged who into your eyes and ears....and to your 1st need to watch the compaign of McCain and Obama side by side at the same time...or instead put Palin in McCain's spot...its pretty darn clear who is being vicious....also it wasn't an Amercian who threw that shoe at Bush...I don't hate Bush...but I don't like alot of his decisions hes made...but nobody and I mean nobody deserves to be disrespected like that...I don't care how much you don't like somebody....and I'm a proud white American who supports Obama....oh and don't forget he is of mixed race and he is very proud of his granddaugter is also of mixed race....who is about to turn '5' and being raised to be proud of her heritage and to believe it is the character of a person that counts... not there race, that people need to work together...I hope that someday you can open your mind, really open up your mind....all those people at the park to listen to Obama's speech upon winning the presidential race...couldn't have been wrong....I saw several Korean, Chinese, Hispanic, White, Black, Indian, single, married, gay, lesiban, mixed race couples...there all people who agree and don't agree with everything but want to find common ground to work together for America, because as Obama said, "We are all Americans." It's just sometimes people forget that.

    December 27, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  18. Joe Fattal

    As a white american I am more proud now than I was before. We can use the word NEGRO.

    December 27, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  19. Angela

    The Republican Party of the past. They will NEVER see the White House again. Monorities need to stay far away from this party, if you can call it a party. This party preaches hate and craime. Sarah came and divided the country and their party this idiot continues with her BAD behaviour.

    December 27, 2008 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  20. Jerry

    The moron defends mailing out the c.d. as a harmless "joke". Too bad it's: 1) Not funny, and 2) A RACIST joke. Kudos to Duncan for speaking some common sense at a party with it's collective heads up it butt. Obama is our 44th President, racial attacks against him are attacks against America herself.

    December 27, 2008 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  21. Pam Holt Los Angeles, CA

    This is truly frightening because it is the intellect of so many misguided and unevolved fellow Americans. I do have hope with the new age we are entering, and just want those fools to get educated and see how wrong they are to use race as a negative. Saltsman, you are truly an idiot, as is anyone with your mindset.

    December 27, 2008 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  22. Jerry

    Chip Saltman (and others like him) should be dealt with accordingly. They are nothing more than domestic terrorists disguised as politicians. DESTROY THE RIGHT WING.

    December 27, 2008 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  23. Leigh

    Limbaugh has his hand in this, too, and thus another disaster for the GOP.
    I realize that his radio show will benefit with a democrat in office but why continue to help take down the entire GOP?

    December 27, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  24. Nola

    It is apparent that chip saltsman(does not deserve caps) is really one dumb person that has a death wish- It is also very sad that a group of people can be so full of hate against another individual.

    December 27, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  25. Double standards

    Why was Don Imus fired for saying what he did, but Rush Limbaugh was allowed to air a racist song? Just because he didn't sing it himself doesn't mean anything–by allowing it to air, he was giving the song (and its racist sentiments) his tacit approval. Throw Rush off the airwaves.

    December 27, 2008 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
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