May 10, 2011

Should Controversial Rapper Common Have Been Invited to White House?

Guests: Dr. James Peterson, Bucknell University Professor & David Webb, SiriusXM radio host

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," May 10, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: It seems this administration will never learn its lesson. Tomorrow, Michelle Obama is set to host an evening of poetry and will welcome a slew of poets, musicians, students from all across the country to the White House.

Among them is a controversial rapper and poet, Lonnie Rashid Lynn Jr., better known as Common. Now, he's a staunch supporter of the president and has a running list of controversial comments.

Two thousand and seven, during an HBO's "Def Poetry" appearance, Common called for the burning of President George W. Bush. Now the poem reads -- I'm not the best at this -- "Burn a Bush cos' for peace he no push no button, killing over oil and grease, no weapons of mass destruction, how can we follow a leader when this is a corrupt one?"

Common, not surprisingly, is also associated with Obama's pastor more than 20 years, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Look at this video of Common performing at Trinity United Church of Christ on New Year's Eve 2007.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COMMON, RAPPER: We gon make it right for the people out there / and I can let you know don't nobody want drama / we gon vote for my man, what's his name? Obama / 2008, we gon take it straight to president / I'ma let you know he's a Trinity resident / yeah, it's like that, we won't be hesitant / revolution is here, we coming clear...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HANNITY: I guess we shouldn't be surprised he landed himself a White House invite.

Now, earlier today, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin also weighed in on the controversy. She wrote on Twitter, "Oh, lovely, White House."

But the rapper himself, he doesn't seem to be phased. In response, he tweeted, "So apparently Sarah Palin and Fox News doesn't like me."

It baffles me that this is the person the White House chooses to set as an example for our kids.

Now, Fox News has reached out to the first lady's office for comment. We are still waiting to hear back.

Joining me now with reaction are back are Bucknell University Professor Dr. James Peterson. And SiriusXM radio host David Webb.

Guys, welcome back to both of you. Thanks for being here.

JAMES PETERSON, PROFESSOR, BUCKNELL UNIVERSITY: Thank you for having me.

HANNITY: Is this appropriate? Talks about killing cops. And I can bring up a whole slew of other things, "n" word. I don't like the way he talks about women. Is this the guy, poet, we ought to be inviting to the White House, the people's house 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?

PETERSON: Certainly we shouldn't be censoring our poets. I mean, this is America.

HANNITY: I don't want to sensor them. Should he be in the White House, big difference?

DAVID WEBB, SIRIUSXM RADIO HOST: No. He shouldn't be in the White House. Look, the president said Sean, words have power. And I agree with them.

We are talking about an image for our children. This latest one that he did the "Def Poetry Jam" is 2007. This is a guy who says in his IMDB profile that he's going to reform himself from his days of smoking marijuana, alcohol and fornication. And I understand that he grew up with that in the Chicago-style rap, you know, that ghetto rap. I got all that. But the White House has to be concerned about image, any president, no matter what. And you shouldn't be sending this down to the kids.

Plus, let's look at hypocrisy. Where would the media be if we replace the words, burn a Bush cos' for peace he no push no button.

HANNITY: You are not better than me, by the way. You're not better than me here, come on.

(CROSSTALK)

WEBB: But if he replaced that with Obama.

HANNITY: Yes.

WEBB: And he said that, this should be front page news. Sharpton with be leading the barge.

HANNITY: Absolutely.

WEBB: It is the hypocrisy that gets me.

PETERSON: I've seen this all over the Internet all day long. But listen, let's just give a little bit of context, the "Def Poetry Jam" appearance is not one of Common's songs, it's a poem that he actually wrote. And actually.

WEBB: Still his words, though.

PETERSON: Please, let me finish here. The burning Bush is actually an allusion to the Burning Bush in the Bible. It's a lot more waiting, a lot more sophisticated and subtle than what you guys give it credit for.

(CROSSTALK)

HANNITY: No, no stop! Because it says just before that, no weapons of mass destruction. How do you go to the Burning Bush?

PETERSON: I'm not saying it is not a critique of President Bush, it is. But it's much more complex than him to say burn Bush. Listen, he's a poet. Let me finish, he is a poet, he has a right to figure and be creative and he's doing so in this particular...

WEBB: Well, let me simplify it for you. The lines before Burning Bush.

(CROSSTALK)

-- What with that happening why messing with Saddam.

This is not about the Burning Bush in the Bible. This is a guy who grew up in Jeremiah Wright's church.

(CROSSTALK)

HANNITY: And by the way, he's been going there most of his childhood. Killing over oil and grease is the line that follows.

PETERSON: Listen, a poet like any other American citizen has a right to have a point of view and opinion. We do not want to censure that nor do we want to say that because a poet has an opinion that is different from ours --that's critical of the presidency -- they should not be allowed to celebrate American poetry.

WEBB: This isn't about censorship.

PETERSON: Most of our American poets have been extremely controversial --

HANNITY: Excuse me, he's talking about popping guns and "I got the black strap to make the cops run. They watching me. I'm watching them." Then he uses a couple of --

PETERSON: The context --

HANNITY: Whoa! "When we roll together with a strapped gun, we're going to be rocking them to sleep." That sounds like killing cops to me.

PETERSON: Sure, listen --

HANNITY: Whoa, that sounds like killing cops to me. Sounds like killing cops to you?

WEBB: Sound like killing cops.

PETERSON: A response to that, though? Listen, in the beginning of this poem, he talks about the fact that police brutality is one of the most challenging issues.

HANNITY: Killing cops?

PETERSON: Police brutality is one of the most challenging issues in his community, and also in Cincinnati.

HANNITY: Killing cops? Killing cops?

PETERSON: He references to be one of the young men in Cincinnati who was killed. So, in the voice of the poet that he is playing in that dramatic delivery of the poem, in the voice, that's the reason why you can't pick up on it he is speaking in a (INAUDIBLE) not in his normal vernacular. He is!

(CROSSTALK)

WEBB: I like you. But this is that weapon of mass distraction. "A Ginny won't see the sun with his family stung" is a pretty straight forward statement. And since, I actually know a little bit about this community, I'm not judging him, I don't want to censor him. I'm talking about judgment and who you bring into it, as the president or the first lady and the image you send out to children. I think that's bigger than any discussion the three of us could have.

PETERSON: The image that Common is sending out to children is that there is an arc of adulthood, he has matured and he has developed -- look at his career, look at his music.

HANNITY: This was just 2007!

PETERSON: Look at his music, look at his albums. And look at what he's done over the course of his career, look at his social outreach.

WEBB: Can we look at the bigger picture, Sean?

PETERSON: That is the bigger picture!

WEBB: This is the bigger picture. This is the Obama playbook. We see the administration, Wallace Smith's church in Shiloh. We see him going to the National Action Network after Jesse Jackson -- Al Sharpton once said, "Ge ain't one of us, until it is time for the king makers to make him king." Now, they are going to play this class and ethnic -- I call it ethnic, it's only one race -- warfare throughout the administration. This is smart for them, because the black community has not broken its own bands, from the liberal establishment and what the left now see is a community that's split, suburban blacks, blacks have gone to college, gotten out, and don't buy into the straight Democratic vote. And they have got to get the black communities in circle and brought up --

(CROSSTALK)

HANNITY: Hang on a second. This is what bothers me about this, is first of all, he's talking about killing cops. I don't care how you want to interpret it --

PETERSON: Cops killed people in his community.

HANNITY: Hang on, let me finish.

PETERSON: Unjustly, Sean.

HANNITY: Let me tell you something, maybe a cop or two or three or four.

PETERSON: Sure.

HANNITY: They do not represent all cops. Those cops put their lives on the line for all communities.

PETERSON: Sure, this (INAUDIBLE) doesn't represent all in the community either, Sean. It represents the poet's point of view.

HANNITY: Here's the point, he uses the "n" word. He talks about cops, the reference about Bush, women, Italians -- hang on a second. This is the president of the United States of America. You know, what? This is not a good message for our kids. This is not the guy that you invite to the White House for poetry reading. This is the guy that we don't want our kids to listen to. And you may want your kids --

PETERSON: That is not true. That is not true. Kids have the right to choose.

HANNITY: They have the right to choose.

PETERSON: And so do the families. Common is an exceptional poet. If you look at the full repertoire, the full body.

HANNITY: I've read a lot of it before.

PETERSON: No, you're just reading, cherry picking lyrics.

HANNITY: I'm reading it and I heard it.

PETERSON: Listen to his albums. This mad has made six, seven albums. Listen to him. Listen to him before you judge.

HANNITY: Last word.

WEBB: Yes, the bottom line on this is a judgment. And as president, no matter what party, this is not a judgment I would make, because here's what kids do. They go to Google and then they saw Google, then they start opening up -- let them choose when they're old enough to separate this.

(CROSSTALK)

PETERSON: Listen, we certainly want more critical listeners but you guys are targeting the wrong artists here. Common is a sensible, progressive artist.

(CROSSTALK)

HANNITY: Hang on. If this was somebody that used the same type of rhetoric about violence against President Obama, I would be against it. If this is the same -- if this was a heavy metal artist and he's talking about killing cops, I feel the same way. This is inappropriate for a president and he goes back to his radical roots again and again and again. Ayers, Wright, Pfleger --

WEBB: Sure, I'm not defending the president, I'm defending Common and his right to create the kind of artists he wants.

HANNITY: I support his right but don't bring him in the White House.

PETERSON: Listen, the bottom line is, the White House acknowledges the fact that we live in America, there is freedom of speech and artists have the opportunity to speak them out. You don't want to live in a country where an artist cannot critique the president.

HANNITY: The first lady's telling us what to eat, now we're going to invite this guy?

PETERSON: Now you want to switch topics --

WEBB: But this isn't about artistry, this is about good choices over bad choices. I'm a First Amendment guy, talk radio is my medium, I want nobody censoring whether it's left, right or whatever.

HANNITY: Sure, we got to go.

WEBB: But we can't just keep throwing these hypocrisies out there.

(CROSSTALK)

PETERSON: Again, if you look at the full arc of his trajectory, Common is a fantastic artist.

HANNITY: I don't know, big mistake. I think it will backfire with the country, that's my prediction.

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