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MSNBC's Toure Labels Disco Critics 'Homophobic' and 'Racist'

Appearing on MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports on Thursday to discuss the passing of disco singer Donna Summer, contributor Toure unleashed a viscous rant against those who didn't care for the music genre: "...there was a homophobic, and to a certain extent racist, response against disco....from large group of fans who wanted to proclaim the resurgence of white male power, of rock 'n roll and punk..." [Listen to the audio]

Toure began launching his absurd attack by cheering disco as "all about gay exuberance and joy." He then condemned those who criticized it: "I have never seen a movement in America to crush a musical genre in the way that the sort of almost organized anti-disco movement rose up....it reminds me of the discussion around marriage equality, that, 'You can't have this for yourself, you can't have equality, you can't be out and normalized in the public. You must be in the closest and quiet about what you love.'"

Mitchell only gently questioned his assertions: "So you think that disco ended because of sort of a political reaction within the music industry, rather than an evolution into hip-hop, rap, and the other forms of music that succeeded it?" Toure replied: "I think that's absolutely right....almost again, sort of a systematic, like, 'We're going to attack disco and push it back into the closet'....it was really sort of like, 'Let's return the power to the white men behind rock 'n roll,' sort of thing."

Here is full transcript of the May 17 segment:

1:13PM ET

ANDREA MITCHELL: And now we move on to a sad loss. The world of disco has lost its queen, Donna Summer has died in Florida, reportedly after a long battle with cancer. She was 63 years old. Toure is an MSNBC contributor. Toure, talk about her importance, her role, disco and what she meant to people with all of her Grammys and her incredible sales.

TOURE: I mean, Donna Summer had a big lush beautiful voice, she was there at the beginning of disco, one of the people who helped disco rise into prominence. Sort of a New York and Philadelphia thing that became a global phenomenon. And you know, she had an incredible song called, "Love to Love You Baby," which played for 17 minutes in the real true long version that they played in the clubs. And she approached it as if, she said, "What would Marilyn Monroe do with this vocal?" And she cooed and she sort of moaned, and you know, in some clubs, in some radio stations they were afraid to play it because it was too suggestive and too sexual. But that was the nature of disco, that was the nature of the times.

And it's sort of interesting to approach this story at this moment in politics, because of course she's the queen of disco, and disco was all about gay exuberance and joy and having this culture that was sort of centered around that sort of cultural energy that they were all about. And you know, I have never seen a movement in America to crush a musical genre in the way that the sort of almost organized anti-disco movement rose up. And people wearing "Death to Disco" t-shirts and really an attack on what Donna Summer and others were doing. And, you know, it was almost like, you know, "Get back in the closet, you can't have something for yourself." And it was – it reminds me of the discussion around marriage equality, that, "You can't have this for yourself, you can't have equality, you can't be out and normalized in the public. You must be in the closest and quiet about what you love."

MITCHELL: So you think that disco ended because of sort of a political reaction within the music industry, rather than an evolution into hip-hop, rap, and the other forms of music that succeeded it?

TOURE: I think that's absolutely right. That there was a homophobic, and to a certain extent racist, response against disco, largely not just from the music industry, but from large group of fans who wanted to proclaim the resurgence of white male power, of rock 'n roll and punk, almost again, sort of a systematic, like, "We're going to attack disco and push it back into the closet." What hip-hop did, it just started to rise up in the wake of disco, and wouldn't become a national phenomenon for several years later. So it was really sort of like, "Let's return the power to the white men behind rock 'n roll," sort of thing.

MITCHELL: And who did she influence most greatly? Which singers, male or female, who really came behind her?

TOURE: Well, when I think about it, you know, so many of the R & B singers who came after her, you know, there's definitely a debt to Donna Summer. I mean, they – we all listened to those records and that, you know as I said, that lush way of singing, that big voice, operatic almost. You know, and the joy that you heard in her songs, not just "Love to Love You Baby," but "McArthur Park" and "Heaven Knows," and you know, some of the other things, and I mean, just a really extraordinary voice.

MITCHELL: Well, she has lost that battle with cancer, but thank you for helping us remember her. Thank you, Toure.

TOURE: Thank you. 

-- Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.