White House Condemns Some of Common’s Lyrics but Praises his Larger Body of Work

By Cullen Dirner

May 11, 2011 1:41pm

The White House Wednesday condemned some of the lyrics and prose of hip hop star Common, whose invitation to a White House poetry event this evening has brought criticism from some conservatives and police officers.

“The president does not support and opposes the kind of lyrics that has been written about,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said when American Urban Radio’s April Ryan asked him about the controversy.

Carney said the president has “in the past spoken very forcefully out against violent and misogynistic lyrics.”

Referring to “concerns by some law enforcement,” Carney said that “the president’s record of support for law enforcement is extremely strong.”

David Jones, the president of the New Jersey State Troopers Fraternal Association, voiced concern to the White House and to ABC News about Common’s invitation given Common’s song extolling Joanne Chesmard, a member of the Black Liberation Army, convicted in 1977 of the first degree murder of a state trooper and sentenced to life in prison. In November 1979, Chesmard escaped from prison.

That said, the White House press secretary suggested that some of the media coverage of this controversy has not be fair or accurate.

“While the president doesn’t support the kind of lyrics that have been raised here,” Carney said, “some of these reports distort what Mr. Lynn stands for more broadly,” referring to Common by his given name, Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr. “Within that genre of hip hop and rap he is known as…a conscious rapper.”

Carney cited a 2010 FoxNews.com interview http://video.foxnews.com/v/4380489/the-hot-zone-common/ with Common in which the reporter told the hip hop performer, "your music is very positive and you are known as the conscious rapper – how important is that to you and how important do you think that is to our kids?”

But while the president opposes those lyrics, Carney said, “he does not think that that is the sum total of this particular artist’s work which has been recognized by a lot of mainstream organizations and ‘fair and balanced’ organizations like Fox News, which described his music as positive.”

“One of the things the president appreciates is the work Mr. Lynn has done with children, especially trying to get them to focus on poetry as opposed to some of the negative influences of life on the streets,” Carney said.

Common, he said, is a “multi-Grammy award winning artist…invited to this event about poetry, partly because of his efforts to bring poetry to audiences that don’t get to experience it.  And we think that’s a positive thing.”

-Jake Tapper

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