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Common at the White House: What's All the Fuss About?

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COMMON
AP

Jon Stewart will debate Bill O'Reilly tomorrow night about the Obama administration's decision to invite rapper Common (originally Lonnie Rashid Lynn) to participate in a poetry reading at the White House last week. Some called the conservative backlash "fake outrage" with no legs to stand on. Stewart tackled the controversy on The Daily Show on Wednesday night, leading O'Reilly to respond the next night with an invitation to come on to discuss the issue more at length. In similar, past events, these two have offered viewers riveting back-and-forth, representing the two sides to issues. What's the basis for this latest hullabaloo?

He glorifies cop killers: "While Common is entitled to rap any way he wants," says Bill O'Reilly in a Boston Herald editorial, "it is troubling that he would be sought out by the administration for a prestigious exposition." Even though people have been convicted of the murders of police officers, Common insists on their innocence, and raps about it. "That is enough to disqualify the man from a White House honor."

Is that really a big deal? "The notion of wrongful conviction is a common theme in African American social commentary -- and people certainly can question and debate whether Common is right in this particular case - but is he really praising cop killing?" asks a Sacramento Bee editorial. This just seems overblown.

It's about race: All of this "Common hysteria reflects racial fearmongering as well as partisan hackery," says Jonathan Chait in The New Republic. "The older white conservatives who form Fox news's audience are, generally speaking, unduly terrified of black violence. Common is their way to link Obama to rap music, and thus to black violence, and thereby to unleash a lot of sublimated cultural and racial fears."