On Friday, ABCs Good Morning America co-host Michael Strahan interviewed country music star Morgan Wallen, who was harshly criticized after a video emerged of him in February using the n-word, prompting Wallen to be dropped by his talent agency and have his music removed from major music platforms.
Although Wallen again expressed contrition, (he had already issued a video apologizing), and revealed he and his group had tried to ascertain how much extra money they had made after his newest album soared after the entire series of incidents and then pledged $500,000 to organizations dealing with racism, Strahan used the interview to accuse country music world of being racist, citing Wallen emerging from the scandal to become the best-selling artist of the year so far and opining, “And a lot of people look at that, as just you know, it says a lot about country music and the race situation in country music.”
“Wallen was dropped by his talent agency and his music was removed from platforms such as SiriusXM and Pandora after a video of an intoxicated Wallen calling a friend a ‘p****-a** n*****’ appeared online in February. Wallen has since apologized for using the slur, which happened “on hour 72 of a bender” late at night in Nashville,” The Daily Wire reported. “Wallen was banned at appearing at the 2021 Billboard Music Awards over the incident. He was not barred from being nominated for major awards, however, since nominations are tied to his position on Billboard charts as well as his music sales and streams on online platforms.”
In a clip from the interview, Strahan said to Wallen, “There’s going to be a lot of people who are going to watch this and say, ‘He’s only sitting down because he wants to clean up his image; it’s all a performance’ – so what do you say to that?”
Wallen replied, “I understand that. I understand that, y’know, I’m not ever going to make everyone happy, but man, I can only come tell my truth and that’s all I know to do.”
Strahan asked Wallen, “When did you realize that what you had done was a big deal?”
“My manager called me probably two hours before the video came out, he was like, ‘Are you sitting down?’” Wallen answered. “No one’s ever called me and said that before. … I went to — one of my friends has a house out in the middle of nowhere. Just sittin’ in that, sittin’ in that house tryin’ to figure out what I was supposed to do.”
“So take me back to that night,” Strahan urged.
“I had some of my long-time friends in town; we’d kinda just been partyin’ all weekend, and we figured we’d just go hard for the two or three days that we were there,” Wallen recalled.
“How did this happen, out of nowhere? You just referred to someone with a racial slur?” Strahan pressed.
“No, I don’t’ think it was just — it just happened,” Wallen said. “I was around some of my friends, you know, we say dumb stuff together. It was in our minds, it was just playful. I don’t know if – it sounds ignorant but that’s where it came from. And it’s wrong.”
Strahan surmised, “And had there been no video of the incident, we obviously wouldn’t be sitting here right now.” Then he accused, “This is not the first time you said the word. This is the word that you use frequently amongst your friends.”
“I wouldn’t say frequently, no,” Wallen said. “Not frequently. It was just around this certain group of friends, I would say.”
“In what way was it used?” Strahan pressed again.
“It was one of my best friends,” Wallen answered. “We were all clearly drunk and I was asking his girlfriend to take care of him because he was drunk and he was leaving. I didn’t mean it in any derogatory manner at all.”
Strahan stated, “There are a lot of people who are going to say, ‘We’ve been drunk and we’ve never used the word.’ Even when you’re drunk there are certain things you do and you don’t do. What made you think that the word was ever appropriate to use?”
“I’m not sure,” Wallen replied. “I think I was just ignorant about it. I don’t think I sat down and was like, ‘Hey, is this right or is this wrong?’”
Strahan then turned to the word Wallen used. “And do you know the history of the word?”
“Oh, yeah. I’ve heard some stories in the initial conversations that I had after that, just how some people are treated even still, today,” Wallen said. “And I’m just like, I haven’t seen that with my eyes. That pain or that insignificant feeling or whatever it is that makes you feel.”
“That goes back to slavery by white people to dehumanize black people and make them feel ‘less than,’ Strahan asserted. “It’s also, if you dig deeper, a word that a lot of black people heard before they were terrorized, beaten or even possibly killed. So it’s a word that really— I’d be called it — makes you mad, makes you angry, doesn’t make you feel good at all. So do you understand why it makes black people so upset?”
“I don’t know how to put myself in their shoes because I’m not, you know, but I do understand it, especially when I say that I’m using it playfully, whatever, ignorantly, I understand that that must sound like he doesn’t understand,” Wallen answered.
“Who did you speak with?” Strahan asked.
“BMAC is one of the first organizations that I spoke with; the Black Music Action Coalition,” Wallen said. “I spoke with Kevin Liles; I spoke with Eric Hutcherson; I spoke with BeBe Winans is another one that I spoke with. I went to check myself into rehab. For 30 days I spent some time out in San Diego, CA. Just trying to figure it out: why I am acting this way? Do I have an alcohol problem? Do I have a deeper issue?”
Strahan then noted that the album skyrocketed after the release of the video.
Wallen revealed giving half a million dollars in order to make penance: “Before this incident, my album was already doing well. It was already being well-received by critics and by fans. Me and my team noticed that whenever this whole incident happened, that there was a spike in my sales, so we tried to calculate what the number of, how much it had actually spiked from this incident. We got to a number somewhere around $500,000. We decided to donate that money to some organizations, BMAC being the first one.”
Strahan noted black country music star Mickey Guyton had claimed the country music world was racist. He asked Wallen, “Do you believe there is a race problem in country music overall?”
Wallen answered, “It would seem that way, yeah. I really haven’t really sat and thought about that.”
Strahan concluded, “Although he was widely condemned by the industry back in the spring, Morgan Wallen has emerged from this scandal to become the best-selling artist of the year so far, according to Rolling Stone Magazine. Some radio stations and awards shows, they may have dropped him, but it didn’t stop fans from buying his albums and streaming his music.”
He turned to co-host George Stephanopoulos, saying, “And a lot of people look at that, as just you know, it says a lot about country music and the race situation in country music and it was interesting to me, George, that all the people he named that reached out to him were black people from the community which were most offended who showed great grace to him, and I think that’s very telling about the African American community.”
Stephanopoulos pontificated, “Let’s hope he learned a lesson from it.”
Strahan concluded, “Hope so.”