White House stands by rapper Common

Hip hop performer Common raps for poet Maya Angelou at a garden party in her honor at Angelou's home Thursday, May 20, 2010, in Winston-Salem, N.C. AP Photo/Nell Redmond

Updated 5:23 p.m. Eastern Time

The White House said Wednesday that President Obama does not support controversial lyrics spoken by the rapper Common that have come under criticism from conservatives. But Press Secretary Jay Carney suggested that the entirety of Common's work is laudable, adding that "you can oppose some of what he's done" while still appreciating his brand of "conscious" rap.

Carney was asked about the rapper in the wake of complaints from Sarah Palin and other conservativesthat Common had been invited to a White House poetry event this evening. Their complaints were grounded a 2007 performance in which Common said "tell the law, my Uzi weighs a ton" as well as "Burn a Bush cos' for peace he no push no button." (Watch at left.)

"Yes, let's invite a misogynist to the White House, a guy who's called for violence against police officers, and called for killing the former president of the United States George W. Bush," Karl Rove said on Fox News last night. "This will set a good tone for the country. President Obama last week said he wanted to recapture that special moment we had after 9/11. And here week later, we have an example of how this White House can recapture that moment by inviting a thug to the White House. A man who call for the death of Mr. Obama's predecessor in office."

The New Jersey state police union, meanwhile, pointed angrily to Common's "A Song for Assata," which is highly complementary to former Black Panther Assata Shakur, who was convicted in the 1973 killing of a state trooper. Common suggests in the song that Shakur, who escaped from prison in 1979, is innocent.

"The young people who read this stuff, hear this stuff, are getting a very dangerous and deadly message," David Jones, president of the State Troopers Fraternal Association union, told NBC New York.

Carney said Wednesday that the president "does not support and opposes the kinds of lyrics that have been written about," adding that Mr. Obama has spoken out "very forcefully" against "violent and misogynist lyrics." But he went on to reference a FoxNews.com reporter telling Common in an interview that his music is "very positive," adding that Common is seen as a "conscious" rapper.

He went on to say that some recent reports "distort what Mr. Lynn stands for more broadly." (Common's real name is Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr.)

"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.

He added that Common was "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."

In reference to concerns about the invitation from law enforcement, Carney said that "the president's record of support for law enforcement is extremely strong."

On Facebook Wednesday, Common, who appeared alongside Queen Latifah in the romantic comedy "Just Wright," wrote: "Politics is politics and everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I respect that. The one thing that shouldn't be questioned is my support for the police officers and troops that protect us every day. Peace yall!"

Other participants at this evening's celebration of American poetry and prose, which will be hosted by the president and first lady, include Elizabeth Alexander, Billy Collins, Rita Dove, Kenneth Goldsmith, Alison Knowles, Aimee Mann, Jill Scott and banjoist Steve Martin and his Steep Canyon Rangers.

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