REPUBLICANS WEIGHING IN ON ‘MAGIC NEGRO’ CD…. After some initial hesitation, Republicans have begun to take sides of Chip Saltsman’s decision to distribute a CD containing “Barack the Magic Negro” as a Christmas greeting to members of the RNC

RNC Chairman Mike Duncan, 22 hours after the story caused a stir, weighed in with a public statement, noting that he us “shocked and appalled that anyone would think this is appropriate.” Duncan, of course, wants to keep his job, and has an incentive to go after Saltsman, a rival for the chairmanship. Saul Anuzis, chairman of the Michigan Republican Party and also a candidate for RNC chair, soon joined Duncan, saying Saltsman’s attempt at humor was in “bad taste.”

Interestingly enough, Ken Blackwell, the former Ohio secretary of state and candidate for RNC chair, publicly defended Saltsman. Blackwell, who is African American, dismissed media “hypersensitivity” on race.

“Unfortunately, there is hypersensitivity in the press regarding matters of race. This is in large measure due to President-Elect Obama being the first African-American elected president,” said Blackwell, who would be the first black RNC chairman, in a statement forwarded to Politico by an aide. “I don’t think any of the concerns that have been expressed in the media about any of the other candidates for RNC chairman should disqualify them. When looked at in the proper context, these concerns are minimal. All of my competitors for this leadership post are fine people.”

There are competing angles to the responses, and it’s certainly possible that Blackwell expects Saltsman’s candidacy to falter, and he’d like to pick up Saltsman’s supporters.

But it wouldn’t surprise me if Blackwell’s comments were the beginning of a conservative pushback to these questions even being asked, and possible criticism of Duncan and Anuzis for showing weakness by paying attention to the media and “pc culture.”

Jonathan Stein noted yesterday, “[C]onservatives by and large hate political correctness and hate being told by liberals that they stepped over the lines of polite discourse. I’ve frequently objected to an insensitive joke, only to be admonished, ‘Lighten up, it’s supposed to be funny.’ Because, obviously, the fact that there is humorous intent makes the racism/sexism/homophobia okay.”

Exactly. In this case, Saltsman promoted, as a Christmas gift, a song calling Obama a “magic negro,” with lyrics from a right-wing activist pretending to be Al Sharpton complaining about “da hood.” For many on the right, this is comedy gold. Indeed, Saltsman obviously thought RNC members would find this entertaining, or he wouldn’t have sent it out as a gift in the first place.

Blackwell’s tack, I suspect, will be the more common response among conservatives. The more Saltsman is criticized, the more many on the right will rally around him, protecting him from those who “can’t take a joke.” Whether the “joke” relies on ugly racist stereotypes is of no consequence.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.