NASHVILLE — State House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, D-Covington, today called on Tennessee Republican leaders to “renounce” former state GOP chairman Chip Saltsman for having sent out a musical parody entitled “Barack the Magic Negro” as a Christmas gift in his quest to become Republican National Committee chairman.
“Once again a Tennessee Republican is practicing the art of racial divisiveness in an apparent effort to appeal to what he believes is the base of the Republican Party,” Speaker Naifeh said in a statement issued by his office.
The song, which author Paul Shanklin describes as political satire, is sung to the tune of “Puff the Magic Dragon.” Mr. Saltsman, a former Tennessee Republican Party chairman, has been criticized by a number of people, including some Republican rivals, for sending out a CD that includes the tune as a Christmas present.
Speaker Naifeh said that as “part of his coldly calculated campaign” to win the RNC’s chairmanship, Mr. Saltsman sent the CD to RNC members because “Saltsman apparently thinks (it) will help him get votes.”
The Democrat noted that former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, and House Republican Leader Jason Mumpower of Bristol recently endorsed Mr. Saltsman’s bid for national leadership.
“What does this endorsement tell you about these particular individuals?” Speaker Naifeh asked. “What does it tell you about the tactics which they endorse?”
Speaker Naifeh faces what many observers say is an uphill battle to retain the speakership against Mr. Mumpower in light of GOP House gains in November. Republicans will have a 50-49 edge over Democrats in the 106th General Assembly that starts Jan. 13.
The Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper quoted Mr. Shanklin as defending Mr. Saltsman, saying “they are trying to paint Chip as some kind of racist — which he’s not.” He said he based the song on an opinion piece by David Ehrenstein that ran in the Los Angeles Times.
The song’s lyrics include: “Barack the Magic Negro made guilty whites feel good/They’ll vote for him and not for me/Cause he’s not from the ‘hood.’”
Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...