The president and the first lady tonight shouldered aside criticism and welcomed to the White House a controversial Chicago rapper who has glibly validated threats and violence against police.
In an afternoon session, first lady Michelle Obama had welcomed various poets to the White House poetry event, but notably ignored the rapper, whose stage-name is Common. “Rita Dove, Billy Collins, Kenny Goldsmith, Alison Knowles, and Aimee Mann, let’s give them a round of applause,” Ms. Obama said. “We’ll get to hear from these folks,” she added.
Common was introduced at the evening session without any reference to the conservatives’ derision of his poetry or to some police advocates’ dismay at his poetic validation of cop-killers. “Thanks very much, I appreciate being here,” Common said, according to a CBS news report.
He repaid the first couple for sticking with him by declaiming three times the line “One King’s Dream, He was able to Barack us,” according to the CBS report.
The issue’s political sensitivity was demonstrated at Wednesday’s lunchtime White House press conference. Reporters for established organizations ignored the issue until April Ryan, a reporter for American Urban Radio, aggressively questioned spokesman Jay Carney about Obama’s support for Chicago-based Common.
“The president opposes those kinds of lyrics,” said Carney. Common “is known as a socially conscious hip-hop artist or rapper, who in fact, has done, a lot of good things,” offered Carney. “You can oppose some of what he’s done and appreciate some of the other things he’s done.”
The president could not easily walk away from the rapper for fear of offending vital supporters in the African-American community, and he could not afford to fully endorse the rapper at this evening’s event because that endorsement risks the president’s effort to portray himself as a post-racial healer of social divisions.