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RNC Rivals Discuss Racial Song

Chip Saltsman, who is a candidate to chair the Republican National Committee, defended his actions.
Chip Saltsman, who is a candidate to chair the Republican National Committee, defended his actions. (Danny Johnston - AP)
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By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 28, 2008

Republicans who are vying to lead the national party offered a mix of reactions yesterday to the decision by one candidate for the job to mail out a music CD including the song "Barack the Magic Negro."

Chip Saltsman defended his actions, telling the Hill newspaper that the song -- and others on the CD, which was mailed to party members -- was nothing more than a lighthearted parody. But his rivals in the contest to chair the Republican National Committee said it carried an inaccurate message about what the GOP stands for.

"In my opinion, this isn't funny and it's in bad taste," said Michigan GOP chairman Saul Anuzis. "Just as important, anything that paints the GOP as being motivated in our criticism of President-elect Obama by anything other than a difference in philosophy does a disservice to our party."

Current national chairman Robert M. "Mike" Duncan, who is running for reelection, said he was "shocked and appalled that anyone would think this is appropriate."

"The 2008 election was a wake-up call for Republicans to reach out and bring more people into our party. . . . [This] clearly does not move us in the right direction," he said. Duncan, Anuzis and Saltsman are all white.

But some of Saltsman's rivals responded more mildly. Former Maryland lieutenant governor Michael S. Steele, one of two black candidates for the job, said Saltsman's "attempt at humor was clearly misplaced," adding that the leadership of the party needs to "be a lot smarter about such things and more appreciative that our actions always speak louder than our words."

"Our actions and our words are oftentimes used to define who we are as Republicans," Steele said in a statement.

And former Ohio secretary of state Ken Blackwell defended Saltsman and attacked the media.

"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," Blackwell, who is black, said in a statement.

"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," he said. "When looked at in the proper context, these concerns are minimal. All of my competitors for this leadership post are fine people."

Saltsman adopted a similar line yesterday, calling out the media for reporting on his holiday gift.

"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,' " Saltsman said in a statement, referring to the op-ed article that reportedly inspired the song lyrics.

"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," Saltsman added.


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