‘Are you sitting down?’ Morgan Wallen discusses fallout since racist-slur controversy
The Morgan Wallen who appeared Friday on “Good Morning America” appeared more thoughtful than the guy who posted an awkward apology video in February, shortly after a recording surfaced of him shouting a racist slur at friends after a night of drinking.
It was the country musician’s first interview since TMZ released the recording and Wallen’s career came tumbling down after he uttered the N-word in the video.
“My manager called me probably two hours before the video came out. He’s like, ‘Are you sitting down?’” Wallen told “GMA” host Michael Strahan Friday. “No one’s ever called me and said that before.”
The 28-year-old country star was quickly suspended by his record label, removed from streaming services’ playlists and banned from the nation’s two largest radio networks, a TV network and the Billboard Music Awards. He checked himself into rehab and nixed a planned tour opening for country star Luke Bryan.
A backlash is ballooning against Morgan Wallen after the popular country music artist was recorded shouting a racist slur outside his Nashville home.
Here are five takeaways from Wallen’s “GMA” sit-down.
He explained what happened that night
Wallen told Strahan that some longtime friends were in town the weekend the video was taken and the group “figured we’d just go hard for the two or three days they were there.” The slur, he said, wasn’t used in a derogatory way but rather aimed at the girlfriend of a friend who was drunk. Wallen, who is white, was asking her to take care of the friend, because they were leaving.
“I don’t think it just ‘happened,’” he said. “You know, I was around some of my friends and we say dumb stuff together. In our minds, it’s playful.
“That sounds ignorant, but that’s really where it came from.”
He discussed the slur itself
When Strahan, who is Black, pushed Wallen on it, saying, “This isn’t the first time you’ve used the word,” the singer denied using it often.
“I wouldn’t say frequently,” Wallen said. “No, not frequently. It was just around this certain group of friends.” Later, he added, “I think I was just ignorant about it. I don’t think I sat down and was like, ‘Is this right or is this wrong?’”
“There are a lot of people who are gonna say, ‘OK, we’ve been drunk and we never used the word,’” Strahan said. “Even when you’re drunk, there are certain things you do and you don’t do.”
“While nobody liked the behavior, we are a radio station — not in the censorship business,” said the owner of a station playing country star Morgan Wallen.
He talked about rehab
The “7 Summers” hitmaker said he spent 30 days in a San Diego rehab facility trying to figure things out: “Why am I acting this way? Do I have an alcohol problem? Do I have a deeper issue?” Unfortunately, the interview didn’t include more of his answer, and it’s unclear whether he still drinks.
When the video was made, he and his friends were on “hour 72 of 72 of a bender,” he said previously, “and that’s not something I’m proud of either.”
He copped to his limitations
Wallen admitted he can’t fully understand the impact of the N-word on Black people when it’s used by white people. “I haven’t seen that with my eyes, that pain or that insignificant feeling that it makes you feel,” Wallen said.
Still exiled over a racial slur, Morgan Wallen plucked on his guitar at home before the Billboard Music Awards honored him in three country categories.
“It’s a word that really — I’ve been called it — makes you mad,” Strahan said. “Makes you angry, doesn’t make you feel good at all. Do you understand why it makes Black people so upset?”
The “Whiskey Glasses” singer replied, “I don’t know how to put myself in their shoes, because I’m not [Black], but I do understand, especially when I say that I’m using it playfully or whatever — ignorantly — I understand that must sound like, ‘He doesn’t understand.’”
He says he’s donating $500,000
After Wallen’s fall, he said, he and his team looked at the spike in sales of his double album “Dangerous” and calculated that it was worth about a half-million bucks, so he decided to give that same amount to relevant organizations. He said he was starting with the Black Music Action Coalition, which was founded in June 2020 to address systemic racism within the music industry. “GMA” was unable to verify the contribution.
Radio companies and streaming services swiftly rebuked Morgan Wallen for using a racial slur, but Wallen is just a symptom of a larger problem in country music.
BMAC issued a statement about the Wallen situation in February, saying, “Following Morgan Wallen hurling the N-word and being captured on video, decisions and actions from the country music community were swift and sweeping. The message was loud and it was clear: Racism will no longer go without consequences.”
He touched on racism in country music, kind of
Asked whether he thought there was a “race problem” in his industry, Wallen told Strahan, “It would seem that way, yeah. I haven’t really sat and thought about that.”
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