WASHINGTON - The chairman of the Republican National Committee said Saturday that he was "shocked and appalled" that one of his potential successors had sent committee members a CD this Christmas featuring a 2007 parody song called "Barack the Magic Negro."
Despite RNC chairman Robert M. "Mike" Duncan's sharply negative reaction, former Tennessee GOP leader Chip Saltsman said party leaders should stand up to criticism over distributing a CD with the song. He earlier defended the tune as one of several "lighthearted political parodies" that have aired on Rush Limbaugh's radio show.
Saltsman, who managed former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's presidential campaign, is seeking the RNC chairmanship. During the presidential campaign, GOP officials denounced efforts by those in the party who criticized or mocked Democratic nominee Barack Obama along racial lines.
A spokesman for Obama, now the president-elect, declined to comment on the matter.
The ditty by conservative comedian Paul Shanklin refers to a March 2007 opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times by David Ehrenstein headlined "Obama the 'Magic Negro.' " In the article, Ehrenstein argued that voting for Obama helped white voters alleviate guilt over racial wrongs in the past.
Shanklin's parody is sung to the music of "Puff the Magic Dragon." Among other Shanklin tunes on the 41-track CD that Saltsman sent with a Christmas message: "I Can Talk Like a Coal Miner's Daughter," "Love Client #9," and "Down on the Farm with Al Gore."
The Obama parody calls into question the Illinois Democrat's racial identity. Born to a black father and white mother, he was raised primarily by his white grandparents.
"The 2008 election was a wake-up call for Republicans to reach out and bring more people into our party," Duncan said in a statement. "I am shocked and appalled that anyone would think this is appropriate as it clearly does not move us in the right direction."
In a statement that followed Duncan's, Saltsman said: "Liberal Democrats and their allies in the media didn't utter a word about David Ehrenstein's irresponsible column in the Los Angeles Times last March. But now, of course, they're shocked and appalled by its parody on The Rush Limbaugh Show.
"I firmly believe that we must welcome all Americans into our party and that the road to Republican resurgence begins with unity, not division. But I know that our party leaders should stand up against the media's double standards and refuse to pander to their desire for scandal," he said.
One of Saltsman's competitors for the GOP chairmanship, former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, didn't refer directly to Saltsman or the parody. Blackwell, who is black, contended in a statement Saturday that "there is hypersensitivity in the press regarding matters of race" because of Obama's election, and he concluded, "All of my competitors for this leadership post are fine people."
The Hill, a Capitol Hill newspaper that published an article about the CD on Friday, reported that Saltsman said members of the GOP committee had "the good humor and good sense" to see Shanklin's tunes as "lighthearted political parodies."