Last month, the Hill reported that RNC chairman candidate Chip Saltsman sent out a Christmas greeting that contained a CD with the song “Barack the Magic Negro” on it. Several of Saltsman’s opponents were “shocked and appalled,” calling the move “in bad taste.” However, as the Hill later noted, “surprisingly,” the two African-American candidates for RNC chair — Ken Blackwell and Micheal Steele — had “been the easiest on Saltsman.”
Today, the candidates debated the future of the Party at the National Press Club and all agreed that the GOP needs to bring in more minorities. But in an interview with ThinkProgress after the debate, Steele said that Saltsman is detracting from this effort. He strongly criticized Saltsman’s decision to send out the “Magic Negro” song, saying “it doesn’t help at all” the GOP’s effort to bring in minorities to the party:
TP: A big theme on the panel today was how to get the GOP to embrace minority voters. Do you think that Mr. Saltsman’s CD that he released to the RNC members helps or hurts that effort?
STEELE: Oh it doesn’t help at all. Absolutely, it reinforces a negative stereotype of the party. [...] And so now we have a opportunity to step in the breach and clear that up and make sure that people appreciate and know that look, this is not representative of the party as a whole, this is not a direction that we want to go in or a system that we believe.
Some RNC members have said that Saltsman’s controversial Christmas greeting may have actually helped his candidacy for chairman. Politico reported that “some of those officials are rallying around the embattled Saltsman, with a few questioning whether the national media and his opponents are piling on.”
However, current RNC chair Mike Duncan disputed that notion today in a separate interview with ThinkProgress. “I disagree with them,” he said, adding that “we’re about addition as opposed to subtraction and bringing people into this Party and things that take away from that are bad for the Party.”
Indeed, during the debate, Saltsman himself said — without a hint of irony — that “we have done a very poor job in communicating any message from the Republican Party” to minority groups.
At today’s event, Steele appeared to have the most — or at least the most visible — supporters in the audience. People were holding signs and wearing Steele stickers and attendees loudly cheered after many of his answers. No other candidate had such a conspicuous turnout.