US President Barack Obama, South Korean rapper Psy, and Washington, DC-based Children’s National Medical Center have all found themselves involved in the same controversy this month. While much media attention has been focused on the situation, little attention has been directed at Children’s National.
So, let’s look more closely.
South Korean rapper Psy.
On December 9, 2012, the TNT television network taped Christmas in Washington for broadcast on December 21. This is the 31st year for the program. The event, held at the National Building Museum, was hosted by Conan O’Brien and featured an array of stars including Psy.
The South Korean rapper is known for his mega-hit “Gangnam Style,” which, in just four months, broke the record for most watched YouTube video in history. Traditionally, sitting US Presidents attend the event. This year, as in the past, First Lady Michelle Obama selected Children’s National as the beneficiary of the event, and the organization’s website has leveraged this with requests for donations.
So, what could go wrong?
Well, shortly before the event, a tape surfaced of Psy performing a rap number in 2004. The lyrics are not for the faint-hearted:
Kill those f**king Yankees who have been torturing Iraqi captives
Kill those f**king Yankees who ordered them to torture
Kill their daughters, mothers, daughters-in-law, and fathers
Kill them all slowly and painfully”
Some in the media questioned whether it would be appropriate for the nation’s Commander-in-Chief to attend the performance of someone holding such anti-US-military and anti-American views. The White House responded by pointing out that it had nothing to do with the planning of the event or the booking of the acts. Obama and his family planned on attending despite the controversy.
Then, days before the event, Psy issued a public apology (click here for the full text):
While I’m grateful for the freedom to express one’s self I’ve learned there are limits to what language is appropriate and I’m deeply sorry for how these lyrics could be interpreted. I will forever be sorry for any pain I have caused anyone by those words.”
Sometimes, publicity can be good even when the news is bad. So, I was curious if the publicity had a negative impact on event-related donations to Children’s National, a positive impact, or no impact at all. I contacted Children’s National.
After initially agreeing to answer my questions about Christmas in Washington, the organization abruptly declined to respond stating:
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