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When we first saw a copy of the now-viral video of young school kids singing the praises of President Barack Obama on Sept. 24 ("Hooray, Mr. President, we honor your great plans/To make this country's economy No. 1 again!"), we looked at our watches to see how long it would take for Republican leaders to react.
Turned out, not long.
The following morning, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele sent out a blast e-mail with a link to the video and a plea for donations to the RNC to "fight this leftist propaganda and elect more Republicans this year and next."
The issue also made the rounds on political radio and TV talk shows. Fox News' Sean Hannity and Kimberly Guilfoyle talked about whether Hannity's head would spontaneously combust or simply explode if his kid had been among those at the school.
"That's not too creepy," Fox News host Glenn Beck said sarcastically on his Sept. 24 show after showing a clip of the video. "Did anybody in the room stop and think for a second, 'Wait a minute. I really wouldn't want my kids chanting a song about George W. Bush, so maybe I shouldn't do it with this one?'"
By Friday, the number of people who had viewed the video neared half a million.
In his e-mail, Steele said he was so stunned and outraged by the video, he felt the need to circulate it immediately.
"In the video, impressionable youngsters at a public school in New Jersey, most of whom are no more than six or seven years old, have been instructed to sing the praises of 'Barack Hussein Obama,'" Steele wrote.
"Friend, this is the type of propaganda you would see in Stalin's Russia or Kim Jong Il's North Korea. I never thought the day would come when I'd see it here in America."
You can argue whether or not Steele laid the political rhetoric on a little too thick.
The fact we wanted to check was the question that immediately popped into our head when we saw the video, "Did this really happen at a public school?"
The short answer is yes. It happened at B. Bernice Young Elementary School in Burlington Township, N.J. That's a public school in the Burlington Township School District. In the video, about 18 second-graders are in an auditorium singing two songs about Obama.
Here are some lyrics to the first song:
"Mm, mmm, mmm!
Barack Hussein Obama
He said that all must lend a hand
To make this country strong again
Mmm, mmm, mm!
Barack Hussein Obama
He said we must be fair today
Equal work means equal pay
Mmm, mmm, mmm!"
The second song is set to the tune of The Battle Hymn of the Republic .
"Hello, Mr. President we honor you today!
For all your great accomplishments, we all doth say "hooray!"
Hooray, Mr. President! You're number one!
The first black American to lead this great nation!
Hooray, Mr. President we honor your great plans
To make this country's economy No. 1 again!"
According to school district officials, the video was shot in February 2009 and was part of a program to recognize famous and accomplished African-Americans during Black History Month.
"There was no intention to indoctrinate children," District Superintendent Christopher Manno said in a released statement. "There was no political agenda underlying the activity."
The New Jersey Department of Education also responded via prepared statement.
"The commissioner has directed the superintendent to conduct a thorough review of what happened to ensure students can celebrate the achievements of African-Americans during Black History Month without inappropriate partisan politics in the classroom, as well as ensuring the privacy of children is not violated," said Beth Auerswald, a spokeswoman for the district. "In addition, it is our understanding the teacher in question retired at the end of the last school year."
It's unclear who wrote the lyrics or shot the video. In a note to parents and the media on Sept. 24, Superintendent Manno said "the recording and distribution of the class activity were unauthorized." Fox News reported that the video was originally posted on the Internet by Charisse Carney-Nunes, author of the children's book I Am Barack Obama. We sent an e-mail to the address on Carney-Nunes' Web site and received a response that, "At this time, Charisse has no comment for press."
On Friday, Fox News caught up with a few parents in the drop-off line at B. Bernice Young Elementary School. Opinions varied about the appropriateness of the songs.
Next stop Stalinist Russia? We'll leave that to parents, school officials and political pundits to argue about. We were checking Steele's comment that "impressionable youngsters at a public school in New Jersey, most of whom are no more than 6 or 7 years old, have been instructed to sing the praises of 'Barack Hussein Obama.'"
Yes, they were second-graders, which makes them 7 or 8 years old, and therefore, "impressionable." And the video shows the teacher directing them to sing. Most importantly, this was at a public school. So we find Steele's claim to be True.
YouTube, School kids taught to praise Obama , Sept. 24, 2009
Courier-Post, "Burl. Twp. kids focus of uproar," by Wilford S. Shamlin, Sept. 25, 2009
Fox News, "Review Ordered of Video Showing Students Singing Praises of President Obama," Sept. 25, 2009
Fox News, Lyrics: Songs About President Obama , Sept. 24, 2009
Fox News, "N.J. Principal Unapologetic for Videotape of Kids Praising Obama, Parents Say," Sept. 25, 2009
Interview with Beth Auerswald, a spokeswoman for the Burlington Township School District, Sept. 25, 2009
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