Many Outraged After Singer Opts for 'Black National Anthem' Over 'Star-Spangled Banner'

This is a rush transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," July 3, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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JOHN KASICH, GUEST HOST: In the "Unresolved Problem" segment tonight: outrage in Denver. Jazz singer Rene Marie was asked by the mayor to sing the national anthem at Denver's annual State of the City address, but instead of singing the lyrics to "The Star-Spangled Banner," she sang what's known as the Black National Anthem.

Joining us now from Denver, Charlie Brown, a city councilman who was at that event. And from Philadelphia, Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, a FOX News contributor, a professor at Temple University.

All right. Councilman Charlie, you were there.


KASICH: Tell us what happened, what the reaction was.

BROWN: I saw someone who was extended an invitation to sing the national anthem, which I think is an honor and a privilege, and she abused that privilege. I thought it was disgraceful, and I was very much offended by what she did.

KASICH: Why, Charlie?

BROWN: Because she was asked to sing the national anthem, and she didn't sing it. It all revolved around her. She was more important than anybody there than the event, because she wanted to get her message across, but that was the wrong venue to do that.

KASICH: Were you kind of surprised when you didn't hear...

BROWN: I was shocked, like everyone else, and I think everyone in the room was offended by it. And by my e-mails and phone calls, I could assure you the citizens of Denver did not appreciate what happened.

KASICH: OK, Marc, you hear the councilman. She was asked to perform "The Star-Spangled Banner." She agreed to do "The Star-Spangled Banner." She didn't do it. I hope you would agree that what she did was inappropriate and wrong.

DR. MARC LAMONT HILL, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I am sure you would think that. I think that — I think that, as a matter of professionalism, she should have told the councilmen and told the city that she was going to sing a different song. I don't dispute that. You know, if someone asks you to sing one song, you should not sing another.

KASICH: So what she did was wrong? What she did was wrong, right?

HILL: Let me finish, as you allowed him to do.


HILL: My issue here, though, is that part of the outrage, and that this is a disgrace, is not connected to the fact that she sang a different song. If she had sung "God Bless America" or "You're a Grand Old Flag," no one would be outraged and disgraced by this. They would just say she had made a bad choice.

But somehow when she sang "Lift Every Voice and Sing," it becomes something bigger than if it were another song, and that's my issue here. Then let's not — let's not blow this out of proportion.

KASICH: Charlie, your response to that?

BROWN: Well, the choice was made for her. She was asked to sing one song, and she did not.

KASICH: Let me ask you...

BROWN: She also did something — she also did something else. The mayor called me at 6 p.m. that night and told me he had talked with her and she apologized for what she did. And then four hours later, on the evening news, she reversed that apology and very proudly defended the fact that she was not sorry for what she did. She took back the apology. She lied to the mayor.

KASICH: Here's the thing...

BROWN: If you lie to the mayor, you're lying to all of the citizens of Denver.

KASICH: Marc, here's the thing. It was Hickenlooper, for the mayor. He originally didn't say too much, but then he got really worked up when he heard the public was going crazy, OK. The mayor criticized her, the governor criticized her, and the head of the NAACP criticized her.

BROWN: I am not a member of...

KASICH: Charlie, let Marc speak.

HILL: I think the message is that all of us, including myself, agree that it's inappropriate to sing one song when you're contracted to sing another one. My issue here, though, is let's not turn this into a disgrace. It is not a disgrace to sing the "Black National Anthem." Charlie — Charlie, let me ask a question, Charlie. Would you be disgraced if she had sang "God Bless America"? Would you find that disgraceful?

BROWN: No, I wouldn't. But that's not the point.

HILL: That is the point.

BROWN: That is the venue. And she's asked to do one thing, and she didn't do it.

HILL: That is the point. You don't find "God Bless America"…

BROWN: This was a formal event.

KASICH: Marc, let me ask you this question, and I hear your point. I still think, you know, she was asked to do something. She didn't do what she was asked to do.

But here's the thing. Hold on — and I'm glad you agree with me on that. But she actually said — when she was interviewed, she said she feels like a foreigner. She doesn't feel like she's an American. Where does that come from?

HILL: I think part of what you have to understand is the tradition of anthems and memorials and so forth. Many of the African-American people throughout history have felt excluded from certain Memorial Days. They felt excluded from certain Fourth of Julys. They felt excluded from certain anthems, because those moments, those days, at that historical junction, didn't include them. And so the "Black National Anthem," "Lift Up Your Voice and Sing," isn't excluding people from the American democratic experiment. It's saying, "Look, black people are part of America."

KASICH: Marc, Marc, she was interviewed when she was in Russia. And she said that when she was asked what it was like to be an American, she said it was very bizarre, that she didn't feel like an American. She sort of felt like a foreigner. That's — you don't feel that way. I know you don't, so I mean, that's really...

HILL: I don't, but I'm not — I don't necessarily rank among the most vulnerable American citizens at this point. There are many people...

KASICH: Where in the world is there a country that takes care of people more than the United States? Where the heck are you going to go?

HILL: But this is what I'm saying. If I'm a poor white farmer who has just lost his new land, I also don't feel fully American. If I'm a poor black person in Katrina, I don't feel fully human.

KASICH: You know what? I know a lot of people — I know a lot of people that lost a lot of things, you know?

HILL: Right.

KASICH: And you know what? We went through the Depression. And you know what, Marc. My family went through the Depression. They never said, "I don't feel like I'm an American." I don't like that, and I hope you don't like it either.

HILL: What I don't like is people being positioned in such a way that they don't have full access to the American promise.

KASICH: You know what? People can go from the bottom to the top. It happens all of the time.

But look, Marc, always good to have you. Charlie, you're going to get a lot more e-mails. Thanks for being with us, guys. Happy Fourth. Up next...

HILL: God bless America.

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