The White House defended its decision Wednesday to invite the rapper Common to a poetry event amid criticism from conservatives over his lyrics.

Conservatives are objecting to a 2007 spoken word performance by Common, that they say glorifies gun violence and suggests Common wished for the death of then-President George W. Bush. (The performance, which critiques the Iraq war, includes the phrase “burn a Bush.” )

But at a Wednesday news briefing, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney called Common a “socially-conscious rapper” who has participated in other Obama events. At the same time, Carney repeatedly emphasized that the president has spoken out against “violent and misogynist lyrics.”

In an interview on Fox News on Tuesday night, Karl Rove dubbed Common “a thug” and said the White House should not have invited him, while Sarah Palin used her Twitter account to lodge a similar complaint.

The other performers at the Wednesday night event, at which the president will give opening remarks, include Elizabeth Alexander, Billy Collins, Rita Dove, Kenneth Goldsmith, Alison Knowles, Aimee Mann, Steve Martin and Jill Scott, as well as the Steep Canyon Rangers, a bluegrass band.