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As They Say, Shut Up and Sing
October 6, 2011  | By Eric Gould

Political commentator Laura Ingraham's 2003 book, Shut Up and Sing: How Elites From Hollywood, Politics and the U.N. Are Subverting America, was critical of stars from the left who went public with political views when their only qualifications were to entertain us.

It seems that same level of scrutiny has just been applied to a star from the right, as ESPN, after a short week of controversy, permanently dropped Hank WIlliams, and his song "All My Rowdy Friends," from the opening of Monday Night Football...

Williams had appeared Monday on Fox's Fox & Friends morning show, and was asked his opinions on, among other topics, the Republican field of potential presidential candidates.

He quickly turned that inquiry into a commentary on Barack Obama, referring to the President's June golf game with Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner to facilitate informal budget discussions -- and calling it the equivalent of Adolf Hitler meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Even the Fox anchors seemed taken aback. When they asked the country singer to clarify his remark, Williams said, "They're the enemy" -- explaining that by "they," he meant President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

You can see the whole, bizarre clip here on Youtube:

That was Monday morning. Responding quickly, ESPN pulled the intro from last Monday night's game -- and, on Thursday morning, announced it was ditching the familiar opening permanently.

Readers' posts at various news sites, including ESPN's, argue that Williams never directly compared Obama to Hitler, or called him an "enemy" as such.

Don't believe them. The comparison was direct and intentional.

He was directly put on the spot by Fox & Friends' Gretchen Carlson, and asked to clarify.

"You used the name of one of the most hated people in all of the world to describe the President," Carlson said. Williams replied, "That is true. But I'm telling you like it is."

The screen shot of the Fox folks' reaction pretty much tells the whole story. (See the photo at top.)

And don't be assuaged by the Williams unapologetic apologies released this week by his publicist and posted on his website.

On his website, Williams writes:

"Some of us have strong opinions and are often misunderstood. My analogy was extreme -- but it was to make a point. I was simply trying to explain how stupid it seemed to me -- how ludicrous that pairing was. They're polar opposites and it made no sense. They don't see eye-to-eye and never will. I have always respected the office of the president."

Huh? The President and the Speaker of the House of Representative changing venues, to perhaps alter the dynamic and enhance the discourse on some very combative financial policies, is ludicrous?

Last time I checked, I believe that was called Democracy.


Tuesday, in another statement, Williams added: "The thought of the leaders of both parties jukin' and high fiven' on a golf course, while so many families are struggling to get by, simply made me boil over and make a dumb statement."

Williams also wrote, on Facebook and his website: "I am very sorry if it offended anyone."

Disney, which owns ESPN, probably (and rightly) didn't have the stomach for much more of this backwoods, and backwards, type of sentiment. In yet another statement, Williams said, "Every time the media brings up the Tea Party, it's painted as racist and extremists -- but there's never a backlash -- no outrage to those comparisons."

Which means what?

That because others have made remarks Williams considers inappropriate about the Tea Party, he's entitled to compare the President of the United States to Adolf Hitler?

Good for Disney and ESPN for saying no to that one.

On a more fundamental level, it's been reported that Williams is considering a run for the Senate in his home state of Tennessee.

No need for the network to give away free air time, even if it is just an intro song for a football game, to a presumed politician -- and a crackpot one, at that.


Williams, quick to the counter-punch, is claiming he quit first -- or, as we say, he was "quit-fired." On his website, Williams says it was his call, not ESPN's.

"After reading hundreds of e-mails," he writes. "I have made MY decision... By pulling my opening Oct. 3rd, You [ESPN] stepped on the Toes of The First Amendment Freedom of Speech, so therefore Me, My Song, and All My Rowdy Friends are OUT OF HERE. It's been a great run."

How Williams figures he is guaranteed free political speech by an employer whose revenue may suffer because of his unauthorized comments, is, in terms of general logic, OUT OF HERE.

In pulling Williams from Monday Night Football after his outrageous remarks, ESPN and Disney acted swiftly and responsibly.

And Hank Williams, Jr. now has plenty of time to listen to the songs of his father, who knew how to deliver messages without angering people. Perhaps, in due time, Hank Jr. will have reason to adopt one of those songs as his own new theme song:

"Long Gone Lonesome Blues."




Mac said:

About the worst you can say about this incident is that there's another theme song (albeit a re-write and way past its freshness date) to be replaced with - nothing. Sure, I don't like Hank Jr. or his politics, but, seriously, it's been a long time since he charted or won an entertainer award. A sizable audience of Monday Night Football wasn't even born the last time Jr. even mattered to country music. Country music eats its young and even Garth Brooks, who moved guys like Jr. off the charts in the '90s, have been gone for a decade. The only one who hangs on is George Strait, still wearing a 10-gallon white hat. In the meantime, Jr. bemoans his First Amendment rights, while it's this country's copyright laws which paid his bar tab for years.

Comment posted on October 8, 2011 1:14 PM

Scott Gant said:

Hey, he has the right to spout off what he wants like any other celebrity. Rush Limbaugh does it...he's just a celebrity. As is Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly. All 4 of these goofballs are just celebrities with a microphone. None are more qualified to speak their BS than any of the others, so why not?

Celebrities all have a right to look like total morons on camera like everyone else. If Rush and Sean and Bill can do it everyday, why not Hank?

Comment posted on October 10, 2011 4:17 PM
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