From RNC Chair Hopeful, a Provocative Holiday CD
By Michael D. Shear
Chip Saltsman, a candidate for chairman of the Republican National Committee, sent committee members this month a holiday music CD that included "Barack the Magic Negro," a parody song first aired in 2007 by talk show host Rush Limbaugh.
Created by conservative satirist Paul Shanklin, the song puts new lyrics to the tune of "Puff the Magic Dragon," and it is performed as if black activist Al Sharpton were singing it. Limbaugh played it after the Los Angeles Times ran an opinion piece with the same title, arguing that a vote for Barack Obama could assuage white guilt.
"A guy from the LA paper said it made guilty whites feel good, they'll vote for him and not for me cuz he's not from the hood," the song goes. "Oh, Barack the magic negro lives in DC, the LA Times they called him that because he's black but not authentically."
The CD accompanied holiday greetings from Saltsman, committee members said tonight. Saltsman, a Tennessee resident who managed former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee's campaign for president, announced his bid to lead the Republican Party earlier this month.
He did not return a call seeking comment tonight. Saltsman had earlier told the Hill newspaper, which first reported the incident, that the song is meant as a joke and should not be taken seriously.
"Paul Shanklin is a longtime friend, and I think that RNC members have the good humor and good sense to recognize that his songs for 'The Rush Limbaugh Show' are light-hearted political parodies," he told the newspaper.
Another candidate to lead the GOP, South Carolina party chair Katon Dawson, drew headlines this fall by resigning his membership of 12 years in a whites-only country club, weeks before launching his run at the national job.
The two incidents for both men come as Republicans are reeling from losing the presidency and dozens of House and Senate seats, and as many in the party are trying to improve relations with African Americans, who voted in record numbers for Obama and other Democratic candidates last month.
Among the candidates for RNC chairman are two African Americans: Michael Steele, the former lieutenant governor of Maryland, and Ken Blackwell, a former secretary of state in Ohio, who ran unsuccessfully for governor of that state in 2006.
Neither Blackwell or Steele could be reached last night for comment on the CD. Another candidate for RNC chair, Michigan GOP Chairman Saul Anuzis, declined to comment, saying, "I haven't seen it. I don't really want to make any comment."
A spokesman for president-elect Barack Obama also declined to comment.
Saltsman was widely credited for helping transform Huckabee from a fringe candidate into a serious contender for the Republican nomination, tapping into a desire among evangelical voters for a candidate they could believe in.
A onetime top aide to former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, Saltsman has recently traveled to several states to woo some of the 168 Republican committee members face-to-face. The winner of the chairmanship must get 84 votes to claim the job.
Current Republican chairman Mike Duncan is also running for reelection. The vote is at the end of January.
Posted at 8:07 PM ET on Dec 26, 2008
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