CNN Deflects Scrutiny Away From Rapper's Violent Lyrics, Dismisses Controversy Over White House Invite

On Thursday morning, CNN largely dismissed the controversy over the White House invite of rapper Common, using talking points from the White House and Comedy Central's Daily Show to marginalize conservative critics.

Anchor Carol Costello deflected attention away from the rapper's violent lyrics by quoting a rap of his that has a pro-life message. She quoted none of his violent lyrics, however. Common has composed work in the past praising cop-killer Assata Shakur in "A Song for Assata," and has also ranted "burn a Bush" in rapping about the former president.

Conservatives were outraged over the artist's invite to the White House for an evening of poetry and song. The White House did condemn his violent lyrics "that has been written about" press secretary Jay Carney clarified, but did not renege on Common's invitation.

(Video after the break.)
 

"He's a complicated guy," Costello offered on CNN's 10 a.m. EDT news hour Thursday. CNN correspondent Jim Acosta agreed, and noted his "G-rated" performance at the White House. Then CNN played a clip from the Daily Show criticizing Fox News's scrutiny of the invite, and Acosta essentially used left-wing comedian Jon Stewart's rant as a buttress in support of Common's invite.

"You can't really throw stones at glass houses when it comes to poetry and rapping and music, especially when it comes to entertainers at the White House. They come from all stripes, Carol," Acosta preached.

Acosta then added White House talking points to the argument, quoting White House press secretary Jay Carney who "describes Common as a socially-conscious guy who has done other things. You know, he's been in a movie with Queen Latifah, so he's a little bit more than the caricatures that have been presented about him in the last couple of days."

A transcript of the segment, which aired on May 12 at 10:58 a.m. EDT, is as follows:

CAROL COSTELLO: Conservatives are slamming the White House's decision to invite the rapper Common to join in last night's poetry event. Critics point to the violent lyrics in a couple of his songs, but check out this line from "Retrospect For Life," where Common criticizes abortion.

This is the lyrics: "Musta really thought I was God to take the life of my son. From now on, I'm using self-control instead of birth control, because $315 ain't worth your soul."

He's a complicated guy. CNN's Jim Acosta joins us from Washington. Jim, what was last night's performance like?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Carol, as you just mentioned just a few moments ago, this is a rapper who is a bit more complicated than the charges that have been levels against him in the past couple days. Take, for example, his performance last night at the White House. It was considerably more G-rated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE DOOCY, Fox News anchor: Some of his lyrics, they are raunchy, they are rough, they are raw.

KARL ROVE: Yes, let's invite a misogynist to the White House.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Okay. Well, and then Comedy Central had some fun with the -- with some of the conservative attacks against Common last night. The Daily Show pointing out that even though folks like Karl Rove have come out against Common, that conservatives have also been, you know, on camera, and celebrated other recording artists out there, Carol, who have also said some controversial things in the past.

So, there's – you can't really throw stones at glass houses when it comes to poetry and rapping and music, especially when it comes to entertainers at the White House. They come from all stripes, Carol.

COSTELLO: They do. But he did read the poetry last night. He's not really prominently featured on WhiteHouse.gov as other --

ACOSTA: No, that's true. That's right.

COSTELLO: But the president does thank him at the end. So, we found that interesting, too. Jim Acosta -

ACOSTA: Yes.

COSTELLO: Oh, go ahead, Jim.

ACOSTA: No, I was just going to mention that Jay Carney was asked about this at the White House briefing yesterday, and describes Common as a socially conscious guy who has done other things. You know, he's been in a movie with Queen Latifah, so he's a little bit more than the caricatures that have been presented about him in the last couple of days. But the conversation will go on, as you know.

COSTELLO: Yes, there's controversy in everything, isn't there?

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014