So here's what happened. Michelle Obama decided to invite some poets over to the White House for a reading. The guest list included rapper turned actor, social activist and Lincoln Navigator pitchman Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr., also known as Common. When the Daily Caller discovered on Monday, they flipped out and triggered a torrent of tweets, television appearances and blog posts from conservatives. Everyone from Sarah Palin to Karl Rove wanted to know why the White House wanted anything to do with the "vile rapper." Common, you see, once released songs with strong language including a pun on "burn a Bush" that criticized the former President's policy in Iraq. The right dug deeper and also found a lyric referencing violence directed towards a police officer.
This afternoon, the White House defended the invitation and Common's character. In a press conference, Press Secretary Jay Carney pointed out that while the President doesn't approve of all of Common's lyrics, he does appreciate his work steering inner city Chicago kids towards poetry and away from drugs or gangs.
It's no surprise that Fox News is one of the loudest noise factories in the controversy. Fox News, the owner of the "vile rapper" denomination above, brought Fox News contributor Karl Rove onto Hannity to talk it out. Pointing out that Common appeared at a presidential event last year and included sexual slurs in his songs, Hannity turned to Rove who let loose:
Maybe we ought to think about somebody else to invite. But no, they are inviting a guy who called, I repeat, for the previous president to be assassinated, for violence to be committed against police officers. And whose lyrics are sexually explicit and misogynist. This guy is a thug. And why they are inviting him to poetry night at the White House, speaks volumes about President Obama and this White House staff.
But Fox contributors haven't always thought Common a thug. As Media Matters points out, less than a year ago Fox News spun it differently:
In an October 2010 report for FoxNews.com, reporter Jason Robinson interviewed the "rap legend" and told him, "your music is very positive. And you're known as the conscious rapper. How important is that to you, and how important do you think that is to our kids?" Common replied that it's a "significant role. I just try to show who we are as well-rounded people and I'm happy to be known as the conscious artist."
It's also not as if conservatives find rap, even its more aggressive offspring gangsta rap, entirely too offensive to be in the presence of our nation's leaders. It came out in a Weekly Standard cover story last year, that Florida Senator and Republican treasure Marco Rubio loves gangsta rap. As of this post, Common will be in attendance at the White House tonight, and Marc Rubio may be listening to his favorite poet slash vile thug.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.