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A candidate for the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee is drawing fire for distributing a CD to members that features a song called "Barack the Magic Negro." The story broke Dec. 26 on the Web site of The Hill newspaper, a publication that covers the U.S. Congress and the neighborhood around the U.S. Capitol.
Chip Saltsman, a former chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party and campaign manager of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's run for the presidency, sent committee members a 41-track CD by Paul Shanklin, a conservative comedian, as a part of his Christmas message.
"I look forward to working together in the New Year," Shanklin wrote as reported by The Hill. "Please enjoy the enclosed CD by my friend Paul Shanklin of the 'Rush Limbaugh Show.'"
The song is modeled after the 1960s ditty, "Puff the Magic Dragon." The phrase caught the attention of Limbaugh in March 2007 when the Los Angeles Times ran a piece authored by David Ehrenstein headlined "Barack the Magic Negro."
In the article, Ehrenstein argued that Whites who were voting for Obama were doing so out of guilt because of the country's history of racism.
Other songs on the track are titled "We Hate the USA", "The Star Spanglish Banner" and "Down on the Farm with Al Gore."
Saltsman's actions were met with criticism from fellow Republicans. Former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, who is competing with Saltsman to lead the GOP, said that his competitor's actions were "misguided."
"I think distributing the CD was a stupid move," Steele said. "Our actions and our words are oftentimes used to define who we are as Republicans."
Former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, an African-American like Steele, defended Saltsman saying that there was "hypersensitivity in the press in the matters of race." Blackwell is also a candidate for chairman of the GOP.
Saltsman said that he meant no harm.
"Paul Shanklin is a longtime friend and I think that (committee) members have the good humor and good sense to recognize that his songs for the Rush Limbaugh show are light-hearted political parodies," Saltsman told The Hill.
Mike Duncan, the current chairman of the party who is running for re-election, said the controversy sends the wrong message at the wrong time. In the Nov. 4 General Election, Republicans lost the White House and numerous seats in the House and the Senate.
"The 2008 election was a wake-up call for Republicans to reach out and bring more people into our party," Duncan told the Associated Press. "I am shocked and appalled that anyone would think that this is appropriate, as it clearly does not move us in the right direction."