In the six months since video surfaced of Morgan Wallen using a racial slur, the country-phenom’s Big Loud record deal was suspended, media conglomerates pulled his music from their radio stations, and was deemed ineligible for the Academy of Country Music Awards.
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In a pre-taped interview on Good Morning America that aired Friday, July 23, host Michael Strahan asked Wallen to take him back to the night of the incident. The 28-year-old said he had been partying with some of his longtime friends the weekend the footage, first released by TMZ, was taken.
“No, I don’t think it just happened,” he backtracked after Strahan pressed. “I was around some of my friends and we just, we say dumb stuff together. In our minds it’s playful. It sounds ignorant but that’s really where it came from, and it’s wrong,” Wallen added. “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.”
Wallen claimed that he did not say the racial slur “frequently” in the past— but admitted that when he previously did, he used it around that “certain group of friends” of his.
As to when he first understood the gravity of the situation, Wallen reflected, “My manager called me probably two hours before the video came out. He was, like, ‘Are you sittin’ down?’ And no one’s ever called me and said that before.
“I went to one of my friends [who] has a house out in the middle of nowhere,” he continued, adding that he was “just sittin’ in that house, tryin’ to figure out what it is I’m supposed to do.”
Wallen told Strahan that he checked himself into rehab for a month in San Diego. In treatment, the artist explained he was “just tryin’ to figure it out … why am I acting this way? Do I have an alcohol problem? Do I have a deeper issue?”
The best-selling artist also elaborated on the conversations he pledged to have in his initial apology video in February 2020. He told Strahan he met with members of the Black Music Action Coalition, as well as gospel star BeBe Winans and music executives Kevin Liles and Eric Hutcherson. And added these conversations helped him gain a “clearer understanding of the weight” of his words.
Despite widespread backlash from institutions and many of his peers in the music industry, the singer continued to prevail on the charts long after the February scandal.
His second studio album, Dangerous: The Double Album, spent 10 consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and is still No. 1 on Billboard’s top country albums chart after 24 weeks in the spot. His album sales also increased dramatically in the days after the footage of the racial slur was released.
“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 actually spiked from this incident,” said Wallen. “We got to a number somewhere around $500,000, and we decided to donate that money to some organizations—BMAC being the first one.”
Strahan cited some responses from Black industry peers in the wake of the scandal, quoting Mickey Guyton’s Tweet on February 3 as an example:
When Strahan asked if there is a race problem in the country music industry, Wallen responded, “it would seem that way, yeah,” before adding, “I haven’t really sat and thought about that.”
When host Michael Strahan asked Wallen how he feels about people who see the interview as an opportunity to “clean up his image” or a “performance,” Wallen responded, “I understand that I’m not ever going to make everyone happy. I can only come tell my truth and that’s all I know to do.”
Watch Morgan Wallen’s interview with Good Morning America, here and check out the clips below.
.@ABC NEWS EXCLUSIVE: “In our minds it’s playful. That sounds ignorant — but that’s really where it came from and it’s wrong.” @MorganWallen speaks with @michaelstrahan about being caught on video using a racial slur. https://t.co/PXMd3zA5En pic.twitter.com/FuJgcfl7vi— Good Morning America (@GMA) July 23, 2021
.@ABC NEWS EXCLUSIVE: @MorganWallen reveals to @michaelstrahan he spent 30 days in rehab following the incident and he says he donated the money from his spike in album sales to Black organizations. https://t.co/PXMd3zA5En pic.twitter.com/BAZI4uFXXf— Good Morning America (@GMA) July 23, 2021