Un-Common culture war over rapper’s visit to White House
The White House is standing by its rapper.
Lonnie Rashid Lynn Jr., who raps under the name Common, will appear Wednesday night as scheduled at a celebration of American poetry and prose at the White House, despite criticism from Sarah Palin and other conservative political figures about some of his lines, including a song praising a man convicted for killing a police officer and this 2007 rhyme about former Republican President George W. Bush: “Burn a Bush ’cause for peace he no push no button/Killing over oil and grease/no weapons of destruction.”
The former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential candidate linked to an article on the conservative “Daily Caller” website and tweeted “Oh lovely, White House…”
White House spokesman Jay Carney said President Barack Obama does not approve of all of the Grammy-winning rapper’s violent or vulgar lyrics, but believes there is much more to the work of the “socially conscious hip-hop artist.”
“The president does not support and opposes the kind of lyrics that have been written about, as he has in the past. He’s spoken very forcefully out against violent and misogynist lyrics,” Carney told reporters at the White House’s daily news briefing on Wednesday.
“While the president doesn’t support the kind of lyrics that have been raised here, he does — I mean, we do think that the — some of these reports distort what Mr. Lynn stands for more broadly, in order to stoke a controversy,” Carney said.
Common has won two Grammy awards and been nominated for nine others. He has acted in films including “American Gangster” and “Date Night.” He is a Christian who prays and attends church, although his pastor — and Obama’s former pastor — Rev. Jeremiah Wright of Chicago — was also harshly criticized by conservatives for his statements on race issues. Common also attended university on a scholarship and is known for his work with children.
Common’s invitation to Wednesday’s poetry night may have aroused controversy, but it is not his debut at a White House event. In December, the rapper hosted the White House’s annual lighting of the national Christmas tree, an event that passed without a media fuss.
Photo credit: President Obama waves next to BB King, the rapper Common (in dark red jacket, face partly hidden), and other performers at the National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony in Washington. REUTERS/Molly Riley