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May 18, 2011  | by: Kerri O'Malley

Jon Stewart Appears on The O'Reilly Factor

And the Common controversy continues…kinda.  After Jon Stewart defended rapper and poet Common on The Daily Show last week, mostly by pointing out the needless hate-mongering of the Fox News “reporters” at the forefront of the scandal, Bill O’Reilly (aka Papa Bear) challenged Stewart to a debate on his show, The O’Reilly Factor.  Stewart accepted, and on Monday night, the verbal battle for Common decency began.

O’Reilly focused his criticism of Common on the rapper’s support of two cop killers, particularly Assata Shakur, who was a member of the Black Liberation Army and who Common visited in prison.  Undaunted, Stewart defended Common by saying that he believes Common sees Shakur as wrongly convicted of the killing.  Stewart referenced other musicians who’ve penned tunes about convicted killers, saying:

“There is a  selective outrage machine here at Fox that pettifogs only when it suits the narrative that suits them.  This guy is in the cross hairs in a way that he shouldn’t be.  Whether you agree with him or not.  You may think he’s ignorant in believing that Asaata Shakur is innocent…But then guess what?  Bono can’t go to the White House, Springsteen can’t go to the White House, Bob Dylan can’t go to the White House.  You got a lot of people that aren’t allowed to sit in the White House because they’ve written songs about people convicted of murder.”


Stewart also pointed out that Common’s support of Shakur does not define the rapper.  “It’s not as big of a deal in his career as you might think it is,” he told O’Reilly.  Towards the end of the debate, Stewart also made sure O’Reilly understood that song lyrics are not often literal, a point that needs to be made over at Fox News.

All in all, Stewart did not encourage O’Reilly to support Common necessarily, but just to be consistent with his criticisms.  Although Stewart avoided talking about race, it seems to me that it was a contributing factor in this whole issue.  The musicians that Stewart listed in Common’s defense, from Bono to Ted Nugent, are all white, while Common is a black man associating with a woman from the Black Liberation Army, convicted of a racially charged crime.  All the worse, it seemed for Fox pundits, was the fact that our black President invited him.

Whatever the motivations were behind this scandal, I think we can all agree it’s time to put it behind us.  No matter what Common’s background is, he is now a perpetrator of peace and a youth-conscious poet, bent towards reforming our cities and stopping violence.  Let’s all just focus on that and let the President, and the rapper, attend to more important issues than bickering with Bill O’Reilly.

Watch Jon Stewart debate O’Reilly below, and vote on who you think won the debate here.

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