CD of Satirical Songs Becomes Issue in Republican Party Chairmanship Race

By Penny Starr | December 29, 2008 | 6:04 PM EST

Chip Saltsman, candidate for RNC chairman. (AP Photo)

( - John “Chip” Saltsman, former chairman of the Tennessee GOP and candidate for the RNC chairmanship, has sparked a controversy by sending  as a gift to members of the Republican National Committee a CD of satirical songs by Paul Shanklin--whose work is regularly featured on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show--that includes the parody tune “Barack the Magic Negro.”
Reaction by colleagues to Saltman’s decision to send the “We Hate the USA” CD, which also pokes fun at liberals with tunes like “John Edwards Poverty Tour” and “Wright Time, Wrong Pastor,” was mostly negative. But at least one of the candidates for RNC chairman--and one of two African Americans vying for the post--defended Saltsman and blamed an over-zealous media for the controversy.
“Unfortunately, there is hypersensitivity in the press regarding matters of race,” said Ken Blackwell, former Ohio Secretary of State. “This is in large measure due to President-elect Obama being the first African-American elected president.”
“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,” Blackwell said. “When looked at in the proper context, these concerns are minimal. All of my competitors for this leadership post are fine people.”
But former Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, also a candidate for RNC chairman, was less forgiving about Saltsman’s idea of spreading holiday cheer.
“Our party is facing a stiff head wind right now,” Steele said in a statement. “The leadership necessary to face these turbulent times requires that we appreciate how our actions and our words are often times used to define who we are as Republicans. I know Chip Saltsman, I know his character; and while his attempt at humor was clearly misplaced, it does not make him indifferent to the important work of building the coalitions necessary to make our party stronger. And yet, we must be mindful that self-inflicted wounds not only distract us from regaining our strength as a party, but further diminish our credibility with an increasingly diverse community of voters. As RNC chairman, I want us to be a lot smarter about such things and more appreciative that our actions always speak louder than our words.”
Mike Duncan, the incumbent RNC chairman who running to retain his job, was even more critical of Saltsman.
“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 issued Saturday, one day after the story broke about Saltsman giving the Shanklin CD as a gift. “I am shocked and appalled that anyone would think this is appropriate, as it clearly does not move us in the right direction.
In an interview with CNN, Saltsman, who also served as presidential campaign manager for Mike Huckabee, defended his actions.
“I think most people recognize political satire when they set it,” Saltsman told CNN. “I think RNC members understand that.”
The gift Saltsman gave was a collection of songs by political satirist Paul Shanklin, whose work is regularly aired on the Rush Limbaugh radio show. “Barack the Magic Negro,” written to the tune of  folk classic “Puff the Magic Dragon,” first aired on the Limbaugh show in March 2007 after a columnist for the Los Angeles Times wrote a commentary about Obama headlined, “‘Magic Negro’ Returns.”