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. Shelley

    Let me get this straight. The guy who wants to run the Republican National Committee's effort to seat more republicans sends this out to the people he wants to elect him. It's sad; it's stupid and it really makes me sick. This 'mainstream' Republican guy was running Mike Huckabee's campaign?? I am so offended. It is so obvious how the Republicans fell out of power. Thankfully, there aren't enough of you left to vote for yourselves.

    December 27, 2008 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  2. mr magoo

    GOP RNC KKK starting to look all the same.

    December 27, 2008 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  3. Pretty funny

    All he needs now is either a swastica tatoo'd or get out the white bed sheets and pillow case

    I cannot believe he thought this was a good idea, Bush must be behind it somehow, coordinated it with the Hawaii blackout

    December 27, 2008 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  4. theabroma

    At last! The RNC has made clear what so many members, affiliates, and hangers on of the GOP are, and have been, about for a long, long time: racist, elitist, sexist, xenophobic, greedy, unethical, and, not infrequently, immoral and blasphemous disgraces to the human race. Not all, but a majority. We are waiting for the Saving Remnant to stand up .. and apart ... to make their stand known.

    December 27, 2008 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  5. bob

    I dearly hope he likes the tune because when he dies and goes to hell they can play it for him over and over again: like the "it's a small world" tune that you're tortured by after the ride.

    December 27, 2008 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  6. Helen, VT

    Yes. However it is too late to realize what Barack Obama is. He is already elected as President without looking at his resume and experience.

    December 27, 2008 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  7. David Somuah

    I'm a democrat and certainly I've never liked republicans, but I find this disturbing because I never thought even republicans would stoop so low. The very fact that Chip Saltsman thought that this would be funny says something about Chip Saltsman. If it's supposed to be a joke, only the most mean-spirited, spiteful, resentful sort of republican would ever find this funny. I'm suprised at Rush Lumbaugh because although I have a very low opinion of Lumbaugh, I didn't think he could stoop so low.

    It's almost as if republicans resent the fact that they have to live in this country with people who look, worship, and think differently from them. How does a party that thrives on hatred and fearmongering intend to have a long term future? Spreading hate can only get you so far.

    December 27, 2008 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  8. Marc

    To Independent : December 27th, 2008 6:08 pm ET
    First of all, 'Obama the Empty Suit'? And you still want to be taken seriously after that remark? I mean, you still wants to be taken seriously by those who didn't fell for the 'Show us your Birth Certificate Empty Suit', or the 'He's a Muslim! Empty (and Racist) Suit', or the 'He Pals With Terrorists Empty Suit'... and the list goes ON!
    Secondly, Sarah Palin is not being mocked up to now because she's a woman, she's from Alaska or whatever that came along with her birth (you know, gender, race, family, place of birth and the likes). First thing I heard about her was 'She's the Governor from Alaska'! Did this phrase made me laugh? No, I am not a bigot or racist or whatever.
    What made and still makes me laugh about her? 'Africa is a country', 'I can see Russia from my kitchen's window THEREFORE I can deal with them'...; that comment about areas/regions/states MORE American than other BECAUSE those places VOTED on her and McCain is the kind of thing that you laugh or you start calling names, I choose to laugh. So Sarah Palin is a joke BECAUSE OF HER ACTIONS. Not anything that she had no control about.
    And Chip (and you) jokes about a man for he being black...

    December 27, 2008 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  9. paul c in san diego

    So funny to see the three righties defending this trash. Good! Keep defending it with all your lame "liberal this and liberal that" garbage. You'll just keep alienating more independent voters like you did this time with that pathetic and pitiful ticket you offered the country. I truly get a good laugh at some of the laughable defenses you give to the right and your idiotic flat arguments about Obama.
    It will be a generation before you ever get a majority or the white house. So keep going folks! Pound more nails into the coffin of the GOP!

    December 27, 2008 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  10. james in s.c.

    reading from some of right wingers on here saying nothing wrong with the song and using the NEGRO!!! it is a racist word anything starts with the letter N. if Don Imus got fired for saying nappy ho's. i live in the south and i'm white and i know this, AA do not to be called anything with N word, or BOY, THAT ONE, DARKIE, AND COLORED!

    yeah keep it up GOPers, keep it up, repthuglicans are no longer the party of Lincoln its more of party of Jefferson Davis or David Duke. here we are in the 21st century and rethugs are still living in the past.
    yup, the rethugs will never ever rule for us for many years.

    GO OBAMA 2012

    December 27, 2008 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  11. proudliberal-independent

    oh,come now, everyone. it's not like he compared blacks to incest and pedophilia. we should 'reach out' to bigots and racists.

    (just like biggotry towards the gay community.)

    December 27, 2008 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  12. Tom

    This is NOT who the Republicans are, I am a registered Republican and find this song and CD appalling and not at all representative of what I believe in as an American.

    December 27, 2008 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  13. Perusing-through


    This is interesting that Paul Shanklin (who penned the words to this song) and Chip Saltsman the wannabe RNC Chairman that enthusiastically condones the distribution of the song, takes pleasure in the use of the 1960's term Magic "NEGRO". Negro is a term African-Americans spent years shaking off because of its deep affiliation with Slavery and Jim Crow racism; and a reminder to African-Americans of their victimization to all types of hatred suffer on American soil for nearly 330 years.

    WHERE IS JAMES DOBSON, "FOCUS ON THE FAMILY", "FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL", and SOUTHERN CHRISTIAN-EVANGELICALS? Oh, I just found them. They are hiding in the "Amen Corner" for Chip Saltsman, Rush Limbaugh, Paul Shanklin, and the Tennessee Republican Party (TNP).

    December 27, 2008 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  14. C W

    Why is everyone so shocked by this CD? This is the party that thinks Lee Atwater and his protoge Karl Rove are "brilliant stategists," people who took and continue to take politcal smear tactics to the lowest, most basest level!

    Folks, this latest action by the RNC and their lame defense of it is just par for the course. This is what the RNC has degenerated into: a party of hate-mongers and dividers (not to mention incompetent politicians who only care about lining their own and their cronies' pockets).

    December 27, 2008 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  15. Steve in Las Vegas,NV

    How very sick!!!!! Yet another shining example of why the Repubs lost this last election...Keep this up and see what happens.More losses on the way!

    This fool should be thrown out of the Republican party immediately!!!

    And he wants to be in charge??? I think NOT

    December 27, 2008 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  16. Mike

    To Proud American:

    You already belong to the party of hate.

    December 27, 2008 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  17. Lauren

    I am not saying it is right or wrong,,,

    But why is it any different for anyone white person to say Negro,,,
    but many, many of the black rap artist and hip hop singers use WAY worse,,, and no one stops them at all. Or even complains.

    Sorry, but I do not feel Negro is racist. And the truth is, Obama is not even a Negro,,, he is a half breed.

    December 27, 2008 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  18. C W

    Helen in Vermont writes: Yes. However it is too late to realize what Barack Obama is. He is already elected as President without looking at his resume and experience.

    Do you honestly think that over the 21 months that Barack Obama campaigned, after hundreds of interviews, dozens of debates (not to mention all the background checking that was required by the State of Illinois and the U.S. Federal governments before he was sworn in as a State and the U.S. Senator, respectively), that his "resume and experience" were not intensely scrutinized, not only by the public, but by the press and countless pundits?

    Helen, he's the real deal and our President. He's intelligent, hardworking, understands what it means to serve the people of the United States and yes, he's even a U.S. citizen (it doesn't matter your parents' country of citizenship; if you are born on U.S. soil – and Hawaii has been a state since Friday, August 21, 1959 and Barack Obama was born August 4, 1961 – you are a U.S. citizen),

    To everyone like Helen out there – be a patriot, stop whining about your guy not winning, and start lending a hand to help out your country!

    December 27, 2008 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  19. The Bu

    To Lauren:
    Many African-American activists, including Rev's Jackson and Sharpton have met with various rappers in the music industry to try to get them to stop using the "N" word, so, it is not as if because rappers say worse things that that makes this not so bad. I think in 2008 it says a lot about our country and how we can or cannot move ahead by what is still enjoyed by many.

    December 27, 2008 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  20. Bill, Streamwood, IL

    The song may be a parody or satire, but its very title makes it racial.

    This entire incident shows me just how out of step some of the GOP and RNC higher-ups are with the rest of the country.Bet the Dems bring this up during the 2010 elections.

    December 27, 2008 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  21. Judy Mia Fl

    As a 60 year old white lady I feel that now more than ever Florida will need help in 2010 elections, Little bro Jeb is going to run for a Senatre seat here in Florida and Ailin Palin in ALASKA. We must keep these nuts out of office.
    Bunch of loosers, bigoted disgusting old men and stupid nitwit women.
    Obama/Biden 2008/2012
    Hillary/Caroline Kennedy 2016/2020

    December 27, 2008 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  22. Obama 2012

    The RNC will never learn because they are not capable of learning new and better things. Hopefully, they will become extinct.

    December 27, 2008 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  23. Check the facts

    Sarah McPhailling and Chip Saltsman are 2 chips off the same old block both are hate mongers,lowlife bedfellows ,liars .

    December 27, 2008 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  24. happy new year

    rush limbaugh should be fired for playing this racist song on his progam, he knew exactly what he was doing(stiring up more hate), its time for the republican party to stop this kind of racist people, if not then turn out the lights because this republican PARTY is over.

    December 27, 2008 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  25. ObamaTheKwanzaPoo

    Its about time... maybe white folks can once again start exercising their right to free speech in this country.

    December 27, 2008 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
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