The right wing shows no signs of letting the manufactured controversy over Common’s White House invitation die. Even though last night’s Evening of Poetry went off without a hitch, Fox News and other right-wing outlets continue to devote ever more attention to the issue. At the event, Common didn’t address the firestorm surrounding his 2007 poem “Letters To The Law” – which conservative pundits have seized upon as evidence of his anti-Americanism. Instead, he read a work that referenced both Martin Luther King Jr. and President Obama, who hugged the Chicago rapper at the end of the evening. Other acts on the bill included Steve Martin and Aimee Mann.
Unsurprisingly, Sarah Palin was outraged by Common’s presence at the White House. “The judgment is just so lacking of class and decency and all that’s good about America,” the former half-term Governor of Alaska told Fox News anchor Greta Van Susteren. “They’re just inviting someone like me or someone else to ask, ‘C’mon Barack Obama who are you palling around with now?…I’m not anti-rap. In fact, like Bret Baier, I know the lyrics to ‘Rapper’s Delight.'”
Karl Rove also saw the opportunity to pile on Obama. “[Common] is a thug,” Rove told Sean Hannity. “And why they are inviting him to poetry night at the White House speaks volumes about President Obama and this White House staff. Who is asleep at the vetting desk?” A post on Fox News’s website referred to Common as a “vile rapper.”
In a briefing with reporters yesterday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney addressed the issue. “The president opposes those kind of lyrics,” he said. “He thinks they’re harmful. Again, I think that it’s ironic to pick out those particular lyrics when, in fact, he’s known as a socially conscious hip-hop artist and has done a lot of good things.”
The widely-quoted “A Letter To The Law” poem includes this passage: “With that happening, whey they messing with Saddam?/Burn a Bush cos’ for peace he push no button/Killing over oil and grease/no weapons of destruction/How can we follow a leader when this is a corrupt one.” What the media hasn’t been quoting, as Jon Stewart hilariously pointed out last night, is that Common renounces violence in the same poem, saying “No time for that, because there’s things to be done/Stay true to what I do so the youth dream come.”
Common has stayed largely quiet this past week, but yesterday he posted a brief message on his Facebook page. “Politics is politics and everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” he wrote. “I respect that. The one thing that shouldn’t be questioned is my support for the police officers and troops that protect us every day. Peace yall!”