Morgan Wallen gave his first interview since a video of him using a racial slur leaked in February. During the interview with Good Morning America's Michael Strahan, Wallen addressed the video and his stint in rehab.
When Strahan asked Wallen why he used the slur, Wallen replied "I was around some of my friends, and we just... we say dumb stuff together. And it was -- in our minds, it's playful. I don't know, that sounds ignorant, but that's really where it came from. And it's wrong."
Wallen said that he didn't use the word "frequently," but admitted that he had previously used it around the "certain group of friends" he was with on the night the video was taken.
Wallen said he "didn't mean it any, in any derogatory manner at all."
"It's one of my best friends -- he was, we were all clearly drunk -- I was askin' his girlfriend to take care of him because he was drunk and he was leavin,'" he continued.
Wallen said he checked himself into a rehab facility following the scandal.
"For 30 days, I spent some time out in San Diego, California -- you know, 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 singer also addressed the continued success of his album Dangerous, which spiked in sales after the scandal. Wallen says he donated around $500,000 to several organizations, including the Black Music Action Coalition.
"Before this incident my album was already doing well," Wallen said. "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....We got to a number somewhere around $500,000, and we decided to donate that money to some organizations -- BMAC being the first one."
The full interview with Wallen is available to view here.
Suspension From Record Label
Following the February incident, Wallen was suspended from his record label Big Loud Records.
Wallen later released a video apology, asking fans not to defend him.
"Our actions matter, our words matter. And I just want to encourage anyone watching to please learn from my mistakes," Wallen said. "There's no reason to downplay what I did. It matters. And please know I'm carefully choosing my next step to repair."
On April 13, Wallen posted a handwritten note on social media announcing that he won't tour this summer. (Wallen was scheduled to open Luke Bryan's Proud to Be Right Here tour.)
"I've found this time away to be very valuable to me in many ways, but I feel like I need a little more of it and therefore will not be performing tour dates this summer," Wallen wrote. "It means I won't be playing festivals or the Luke Bryan tour dates. But it's important to me personally, if you can, go to these shows -- support country music. Country music is back and that's a beautiful damn thing."
Wallen also released an apology directly following the video's February release.
"I'm embarrassed and sorry," Wallen said in a statement. "I used an unacceptable and inappropriate racial slur that I wish I could take back. There are no excuses to use this type of language, ever. I want to sincerely apologize for using the word. I promise to do better."
The video was posted to TMZ on Feb. 2. TMZ reports that one of Wallen's neighbors began recording Wallen and a group of friends after they arrived at Wallen's Nashville home around midnight. Another neighbor's doorbell camera captured the scene before Wallen used the racial slur.
Wallen's music was quickly removed from Cumulus Media, the second biggest radio chain in the U.S. A message was sent out to program directors of its 400-plus stations.
"Team, unfortunately country music star Morgan Wallen was captured on video Sunday evening using a racial slur," the message read. "Effective immediately we request that all of Morgan Wallen's music be removed from our playlists without exception. More to follow."
iHeartMedia, the largest radio chain in the nation, also pulled Wallen's music from its airwaves.
CMT also removed Wallen from its platforms.
"After learning of Morgan Wallen's racial slur late last night, we are in the process of removing his appearance from all our platforms," CMT said in a statement. "We do not tolerate or condone words and actions that are in direct opposition to our core values that celebrate diversity, equity and inclusion."
After learning of Morgan Wallen’s racial slur late last night, we are in the process of removing his appearances from all our platforms. We do not tolerate or condone words and actions that are in direct opposition to our core values that celebrate diversity, equity & inclusion.
— CMT (@CMT) February 3, 2021
Following the controversy, Wallen's sophomore album Dangerous: The Double Album spent multiple weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.
Last year, Wallen was arrested on public intoxication and disorderly conduct charges outside Kid Rock's downtown Nashville bar. The singer was the subject of controversy once again when his Saturday Night Live performance was canceled after he was seen partying maskless and kissing multiple women in Alabama bars just days before his scheduled performance. (Wallen later appeared on the show in December.)
Nashville Billboards Supporting Morgan Wallen
A series of billboards supporting Wallen popped up around Nashville in April, right before the 2021 ACM Awards and CMT Awards.
The billboards called Wallen "His fans choice [for] Entertainer of the Year" and asked others to "Support that boy from East Tennessee." In February, the Academy of Country Music (ACM) stated that Wallen was ineligible for awards this year.
"The Academy does not condone or support intolerance or behavior that doesn't align with our commitment and dedication to diversity and dedication," the statement read.
Taste of Country and The Boot report that the billboards are operated by Lamar Advertising. The company was unable to provide information as to who ordered the signs. The six billboards are located along Broadway and West End Avenue.
Country Now reports that the billboards were paid for by a group of Wallen's fans.
In addition, Wallen fans funded comparable signage in Los Angeles in time for May's Billboard Music Awards (BBMAs).
The billboard's blue background is a critique of the BBMAs posting a blue box in place of Wallen's picture on its website.
"Behind that blue box is a human being. A living, breathing, human being. He has feelings just the same as you and I do, so to represent him as a 'blue box' is degrading and uncalled for," says Darleen Ingram, one of the fans who helped pay for the billboard (as quoted by The Boot). "We the fans plan to continue standing up to cancel culture. We're not backing down."
Billboard Music Awards
Though he earned six nominations, Wallen didn't appear on the 2021 Billboard Music Awards (BBMAs), which aired live on May 23 on NBC.
However, Wallen did win three awards -- Top Country Artist, Top Country Male and Top Country Album at the award show. (The awards at the BBMAs are based on analytical data.)
Wallen was also nominated for Top Song Sales artist, which went to the group BTS, and Top Country Song, which went to Gabby Barrett for "I Hope."
In a statement released on April 29, Dick Clark Productions announced that Wallen would not be invited to perform or present or accept any awards due to his "recent conduct," referring to a Jan. 31 incident in which Wallen used the n-word outside his Nashville home. The slur was caught on camera and posted on TMZ on Feb. 2.
"Morgan Wallen is a finalist this year based on charting. As his recent conduct does not align with our core values, we will not be including him on the show in any capacity (performing, presenting, accepting)," the statement reads. "It is heartening and encouraging to hear that Morgan is taking steps in his anti-racist journey and starting to do some meaningful work. We plan to evaluate his progress and will consider his participation in future shows."
This is an update to an article previously published on Feb. 3. It was updated on July 23, 2021.