The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

03 May 2007

Senator Barack Hussein Obama (D- Ill), Rush Limbaugh, Talk Radio


In Radio Interview, Senator Claims He Hasn't Heard Parody

Is it really possible that Barack Obama has yet to hear Rush Limbaugh's "Barack The Magic Negro" parody song?

After a Los Angeles Times columnist labelled the senator that way, songmaster Paul Shanklin cooked up a hilarious spoof for the talk titan's program. Now, the Times writer claims Limbaugh is taking his words out of context.

According to the US Senator from Illinois, however, he's not a regular El Rushbo listener and hadn't had a chance to hear it. After perhaps dozens of airings, could that really be the case?

Excerpted from a story by Sherrel Wheeler Stewart

The song, performed by a Rev. Al Sharpton impersonator and set to the tune of “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” uses some of the language of a column that appeared March 19 in the Los Angeles Times. The writer of that column, however, said, his reference to “magic negro” was a look at the culture in which Barack proceeds in his campaign.

“This was not a personal look at Barack Obama,” columnist David Ehrenstein told “What I am saying is this is at play in the culture. Is American ready for an African-American president? What does he stand for?”

In the song, performed by Paul Shanklin, the Sharpton impersonator sings the chorus, "Barack, the magic negro, lives in D.C.; The L.A. Times, they call him that, 'cause he’s not authentic like me."

Obama, in a transcript of a radio interview with talk show host Paul Smith, said he did not take offense to the song played on the Limbaugh show.

“You know, I have not heard it, but I've heard of it. I confess that I don't listen to Rush on a daily basis," said Obama. "On the other hand, I'm not one of these people who takes myself so seriously that I get offended by every comment made about me. You know, what Rush does is entertainment ... although it's probably not something that I listen to much.”

From Obama's standpoint, is it the best way to handle a question like this? For political purposes, it may well be, as any other approach may draw too much attention to the song.

On the other hand, do African- American activists expect him to speak out against it? If so, that could actually renew their previous criticisms of Obama.

Once again, he's attempting to balance competing interests: the Jackson / Sharpton crowd versus potential mainstream American voter support. Is it really possible to keep both sides happy?

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