Date: May 9, 2011
The Moment: In the Spring of 2011, a White House pool report came out about a poetry reading, hosted by Michelle Obama. It was nothing out of the ordinary, until conservative news outlets came across it, and went on to have a field day. Common, a Chicago rapper, was part of the reading.
The Impact: Never mind that Common isn't the striking image of Scared White America's Angry Black Rapper, or that his biggest hits are about love, art, and elevating one's social consciousness. Outlets like Fox News and The Daily Caller went wild, with their pundits posting and reciting context-free samples of Common's work to make the rapper sound less like less Common. Eventually, outlets started reporting that Common had voiced his support in song for Joanne Chesmard, a Black Liberation Army member convicted of killing a cop in cold blood in 1977 for a murder that, in his words, she couldn't have done. Jon Stewart and The Daily Show produced one of the show's most memorable attacks on Fox News, ever, as Stewart rapped about the stunningly absurd and hypocritical way Fox News was playing this story out.
The Upshot: White House press secretary Jay Carney briefed the press corps before the event, explaining that while the president didn't always agree with or even enjoy specific sections of Common's lyrics, he had kind words for the rapper's overall body of work. The performance by Common proceeded as scheduled a few days after the "controversy" unfolded, and Common was given a hug by President Barack Obama as the event wrapped up. Stewart not only critiqued the White House's soft-power handling of the situation on The Daily Show, but also ended up on The O'Reilly Factor embarrassing the show's titular blowhard over the way his network handled the entire thing. Then, of course, Barack Obama got re-elected.