OTR Interviews

Palin: White House's Decision to Invite Common Lacked 'Class and Decency and All That's Good About America'

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," May 11, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MARTHA MACCALLUM, "ON THE RECORD" GUEST HOST: We take you to the Common controversy, as it is being known tonight. There is some pictures, some video from this evening. Chicago rapper and poet Common attended the first lady's poetry event for students tonight.


COMMON: Even through the unseen, I know that God watches. From one King's dream, he was able to Barack us. One King's dream, he was able to Barack us. One King's dream, he was able to Barack us.

REV. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.: I have a dream.

COMMON: Thank you and God bless. I appreciate being here.


MACCALLUM: "I appreciate being here" were the last words that he said up there tonight, perhaps a subtle reference to the controversy around the fact that he was there, the words that he said tonight not coming across as controversial in any way, but the invite did set some people on edge. And that is because of some of Common's other lyrics that have to do with shooting police officers and burning President Bush.

And his rap song, another song of his called "A Song for Assata," glorifies a convicted cop killer known as Assata Shakur, who gunned down a New Jersey state trooper back in the 1970s. So there is no surprise there that you are getting this very strong reaction coming from the New Jersey State Troopers Fraternal Association telling Bill O'Reilly why Common's invite to the White House was so offensive to him and to his colleagues.




JONES: My guys and you and I didn't just pay with our tax dollars to have this here. My guys paid with their blood. They pay with their blood every single day. And every guy on that wall is there because it's their blood that ensures the freedom of 1st Amendment rights of free speech!


MACCALLUM: Powerful. So earlier today, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney defended the rapper's invite to the White House.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president opposes those kinds of lyrics. He thinks they're harmful. Again, I think that taking that -- you know, it's ironic to pick out those particular lyrics and -- about this particular artist, when, in fact, he's known as a socially conscious hip-hop artist or rapper and who has done a lot of good things.


MACCALLUM: There you go. So that's the controversy. Former Governor Sarah Palin disagrees with what Jay Carney just said. When she heard about this news, she sent out this sarcastic tweet. "Oh, lovely, White House."

Governor Palin joins us now from Alaska. Good to have you here. Good evening, Governor.


MACCALLUM: So you know, you saw the little bit that we just showed from what happened tonight at the White House, the poetry evening that was a gathering there. You know, what's your reaction to all this now?

PALIN: It's just -- it's too easy. You know, the White House's judgment on inviting someone who would glorify cop killing during Police Memorial Week, of all times, you know, the judgment, it's just so lacking of class and decency and all that's good about America with an invite like this. And you know, it's just so easy to assume that they're just inviting someone like me or somebody else to ask, "Come on, Barack Obama, who are you palling around with now?"

This rapper -- we thought that we were to be united under the leader of the free world, Barack Obama, in tamping down racism and inciting violence and cop killing, certainly, and killing a former president. All those things that this rapper has glorified and really is known for, it just certainly reflects a lack of judgment on the White House's part.

And I'm saying this not a proponent of stifling any kind of free speech. I am obviously a proponent of free speech. I'm not anti-rap. In fact, like Bret Baier, I know the lyrics to "Rapper's Delight," too. But I am saying just common decency in the White House -- wouldn't we like to see a reflection of all that is wonderful and great, a shining city on a hill that the White House is supposed to be, with events inside of that house that reflect the patriotism and the decency and the influence of America.

MACCALLUM: Yes. You know, the president spoke a little bit tonight, and he basically said, you know, poetry is interpreted differently by all different people who hear it and you have to defend everyone's right to sort of have their artistic creativity, which I think every -- everybody can agree with in this country. But I think that you're hitting on the point that maybe the most important here and that is the venue. That is the decision, you know, to use the White House in this way and to give this man a forum at the White House. You know, what's the role of being at the White House and when you bring entertainers into the White House as president of the United States, what kind of standards should you have?

PALIN: Right, and the founders of our country certainly had envisioned a White House which eventually had been built, a White House to symbolize those things that we want to help influence the rest of the world to want to emulate. And again, an invite like this, of all weeks out of the year, Police Memorial Week, an invite like this kind of erodes some of that decency that we want to reflect for the rest of the world.

Even this rapper's view on interracial relationships -- you know, that it's not a good thing to have people coming together from different races - - that's just an odd thing to embrace. And of all the wonderful talent that's out there all over the country, why a rapper who would glorify a sense of racism and all those things that I've already named, with the inciting the violence and the cop killing -- why of all people to invite -- why put him on a pedestal in the White House?

MACCALLUM: Yes. All right. We're going to talk a little bit more about this in just a moment with rapper Master P and get his side of this whole story. You know, just before we leave it though, with you, Sarah, you know, if you were -- if you were in the White House, which you know, you've talked about the possibility of doing one day, you know, who would you want there? You know, what kind of -- do you think it's important for presidents to hold these kind of events, to have cultural events at the White House? You know, what would you envision for sort of the right way to do this kind of event?

PALIN: It is important for events within the White House to reflect that decency, the patriotism that is America. Remember, Laura Bush tried to have one of these poetry readings in the White House. And she had invited poets and actors and actresses, those who would repeat the lines of the historians and of the well-known poets throughout the years. And she had to cancel it because some left-wing protesters disagreed with what it was that she wanted to reflect and who she wanted to invite.

And I remember there being the controversy that the rapper Common brought to the table. So I guess it's going to be everybody's interpretation of what is appropriate and what isn't. It's just my opinion that the White House could have done better on this one in inviting those who reflect more of what we want others to be able to emulate in our country.

MACCALLUM: All right. Let's move on to the big decision that was made tonight by Newt Gingrich. He is running for president. We heard a little bit from him -- we heard a lot from him on Sean Hannity. We're going to hear a little bit more coming up. You know, but you once said that you would sort of look at the field. You would look at who was rising to the occasion and running for the nomination, and that would help you decide whether or not you would feel called upon to throw your own hat in the ring. Now how does this decision by Newt Gingrich impact that?

PALIN: Well, I'm happy that he is running. The more competition, the better. We need vigorous debate in a primary. This is going to be good. And I still think that it's too early, though, a year-and-a-half out. I think it's too early to throw my hat in the ring and I know that other potential candidates are thinking along those same lines.

What Newt's going to be able to bring to the table, of course, is that experience that he had in the 1980s in Congress, and he'll be able to share what some solutions can be and what maybe some failures were so that we don't repeat those failures. He's going to bring that to the table in terms of debate content, and that's good.

What Newt and what every candidate is going to have to concentrate on, though, is how is it that this country's going to get back on the right economic track, how are we going to convince those on the left that we must embrace free market principles, we must become energy-secure and we must allow the private sector to grow and to thrive. Newt's going to be able to add some content and some discussion points, which will be good.

MACCALLUM: So what about you? You know, you say it's way too early. Why is it way too early? And you know, there's a lot of disgruntlement among a lot of members of the GOP saying, you know, we don't have a strong candidate out there, you know, that the field is weak. What say you.

PALIN: Well, we do have strong candidates out there, and you're going to see more strong candidates be willing to throw their hat in the ring and engage in that vigorous primary that the electorate deserves to see. But I do think it's too early. And I'm not disappointed in the field thus far. I look forward to more jumping in there. Again, as I say, competition breeds success. Competition is good for all of us in business, in politics. The more the merrier in a primary.

MACCALLUM: And what about the sort of continued urging for Jeb Bush or Chris Christie to jump into the race? Would you also encourage them to get in?

PALIN: I would encourage anyone who believes that they can provide some solutions to the challenges facing this country, those who do not believe in big government and that bureaucrats can plan our economy and plan our futures for us, but those who understand that it is the entrepreneurial spirit and being able to responsibly exploit our natural resources to allow us to become a more secure, more prosperous nation. Any of those potential candidates who have that thinking in mind, I would invite them to join in the fray, if you will, and engage in this process.

MACCALLUM: All right. Just a few seconds left, but you know, your thoughts on the killing, capture, killing of bin Laden and -- some people say that, you know, that makes Obama a very formidable candidate.

PALIN: No, I'm very appreciative that Usama bin Laden is gone and we have contained that little aspect of evil that wanted to spread and destroy America. But that is just one aspect of the war on terrorism. And no, I don't believe that Barack Obama is a stronger candidate, personally, after our Navy SEALs did what they were able to accomplish under, yes the guidance of our president.

I believe that the economy is going to be on the forefront of America's mind as we go down this process a year-and-a-half from now in the general. And Barack Obama has no clue how to allow the private sector to grow and thrive because Barack Obama, coming from such a leftist, almost socialist type of thinking, his idea of economic growth all has to do with government growth. It all has to do with taking more from the private sector and spending those dollars, many dollars that we don't even have that we're borrowing, according to his and other bureaucrats' priorities.

That's no way to grow an economy. People are going to know that. They're going to recognize that more and more, Martha, as these months go on. And no, Barack Obama, I don't believe, is in the catbird's seat in terms of a shoo-in to win the presidency.

MACCALLUM: All right. We'll see, and we await your decision, as well. Governor Palin, thank you so much. Great to talk to you tonight.

PALIN: Thank you.