In his first interview with a news outlet since his racial-slur scandal broke six months ago, country superstar Morgan Wallen told “Good Morning America” co-host Michael Strahan that his use of the N-word was the result of being in a drunken climate with friends where they “say dumb stuff together,” and was not meant “in any derogatory manner at all.” He said that in the wake of the furor, he spent 30 days in rehab and has donated $500,000 to Black charities.
Of his “Dangerous: The Double Album” release, which has turned out to be the most popular album in all of music this year, Wallen said, “Before this incident my album was already doing well,” but “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 spiked from this incident, and we got to a number somewhere around $500,000, and we decided to donate that money to some organizations, BMAC being the first one.”
Wallen only cited the Black Music Action Coalition as a recipient of his donations. Earlier in the segment, he said that the BMAC was one of the Black people or organizations he met with after the scandal broke, also mentioning 300 Entertainment CO Kevin Liles; Eric Hutcherson, Universal Music Group’s executive VP, chief people and inclusion officer; and gospel star BeBe Winans.
“GMA” said that the BMAC, which describes itself as “an advocacy organization formed to address systemic racism within the music business,” had not returned the program’s request for comment on the donation or any meeting.
Watch the full segment, below.
Wallen said that after the incident, he was “trying to figure out, do I have an alcohol problem? Do I have a deeper issue?” The singer wasn’t seen going into any detail about whether he’d developed answers to that in the heavily edited, seven-and-a-half-minute interview segment, but said he “Went and checked myself into rehab” and for 30 days “spent some time in San Diego,” presumably the home of the rehab facility.
Strahan played Black country star Mickey Guyton’s “Black Like Me” during the segment and quoted her contention that Wallen’s slur was indicative of where people of color stand in the country music world. Asked by the host if country music has a race problem, Wallen answered, “It would seem that way, yeah. I haven’t really sat and thought about that.”
Wallen told the interviewer he is aware why Blacks took offense at his use 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,” he said. “I haven’t seen that with my eyes, that pain or that insignificant feeling or whatever it is that it makes you feel. … I don’t know how to put myself in their shoes because I’m not. But I do understand. Especially when I say that I’m using it playfully or whatever, ignorantly, I understand that that must sound like ‘He doesn’t understand.’”
Asked by the host how something like the incident captured on tape by TMZ could “just happen,” Wallen said, “”I don’t think it just happened. 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 … and it’s wrong.” He noted, “I had some of my longtime friends in town. We had kind of been partying all weekend and we figured we would go hard for the two or three days that they were there. … It’s one of my best friends — we were all clearly drunk — 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.”
In response to Strahan asking whether he had used the word frequently, the star said, “I wouldn’t say frequently, no, not frequently. It was just amongst this certain group of friends, I would say.”
Wallen did not reveal much new information during the segment that he hadn’t said in his previous self-made apology videos months ago, beyond noting the donation, confirming a rehab stint and naming a handful of Black execs or organizations he had met with. No plans for the future were mentioned, and it wasn’t immediately clear why the singer was choosing this moment to finally speak with the media.
Wallen’s status within the country music world remains mixed. After most country stations took him off the air immediately following the TMZ report, he is now back on most, albeit in limited rotation, with no single actively being promoted right now. The CMA Awards, set for November, announced earlier that he will not be eligible for any individual awards, like entertainer of the year or male vocalist of the year, only shared ones that would also reward his collaborators.
Nationally syndicated radio host Bobby Bones faced some blowback this month when he devoted an on-air segment to saying that Bones’ unofficial suspension from the music industry should be over, and that the CMA Awards should make him fully eligible and have him on the telecast in the fall.