Common: A poet worthy of notice and respect or a menacing gangster rapper that wants to kill cops? While the question may seem ridiculous, these were the terms of a debate last night (May 16) between talk show hosts Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly in the midst of an ongoing conservative firestorm started after Com was invited to the White House to perform at a poetry slam.
Sarah Palin, taking to Fox News and the Internet, ignited the campaign last week, saying the invite was “lacking of class and decency.” As Fox News went into overdrive, rappers like Talib Kweli and Bun B used Twitter to openly defend the rapper/actor and mock the distortion of his image by conservatives.
Stewart and O’Reilly attempted to come to a final conclusion over whether the Chicago-native’s performance was appropriate or not in a segment that began airing last night on The O’Reilly Factor.
“It’s a poetry slam,” said Stewart. “Who gives a crap?”
“A lot of people do,” O’Reilly responded.
Throughout the debate, Stewart returned to the point that, if you dismiss Common for having lyrics that are critical of government bodies, then the White House should not be allowed to have guests such as Bono and Bob Dylan. (U2 wrote “Native Son” about Native American activist and convicted FBI murderer Leonard Peltier, while Dylan’s hit “Hurricane Carter” was about boxer Rubin Carter, who was wrongly jailed for a triple homicide). O’Reilly stuck to more controversial points, saying Common had been “sympathizing with two cop killers.”
The debate, while substantial, was mostly for entertainment, though. Its most amusing moment came as Stewart made a point about the danger of interpreting songs in a literal sense.
“By the way, songs are not literal,” he said. “When The Weather Girls sing, ‘It’s raining men,’ it’s not really about precipitation of males.”
“Stop attacking The Weather Girls,” O’Reilly deadpanned. “I like them.”
Part two of the debate will air tonight. —Carter Maness