Morgan Wallen spoke out in interview for the first time to address using a racial slur in a video that was leaked in February.
The Voice season 6 alum spoke exclusively with Good Morning America co-host Michael Strahan in an interview that aired on Friday (July 23). In it, the country singer reflected on using a racial epithet in footage released by TMZ on Feb. 2.
Morgan explained to Strahan that on the night the footage was taken, he had been partying with some of his longtime friends and that it “just happened.”
“We say dumb stuff together”
“I was around some of my friends, and we just … we say dumb stuff together,” Morgan said. “And it was — in our minds, it’s playful … that sounds ignorant, but it — that’s really where it came from … and it’s wrong.”
The country singer insisted that he did not say the racial slur “frequently” in the past, but only with when he hung out with a “certain group of friends” of his.
He claims that his use of the word in the clip “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,'” Morgan recalled of that night.
“I think I was just ignorant about it”
He explained that he is “not sure” what made him feel he could use the racial slur and chalked it up to his lack of awareness. “I think I was just ignorant about it,” he said. “I don’t think I sat down and was, like, ‘Hey, is this right or is this wrong?'”
Following the video’s release, Morgan was immediately dropped by his record label. (more like paused. He’s listed on their website again.) Also, his talent and booking agency dropped him. Although country radio stations quietly began adding his music back into rotation back in June, major country radio markets dropped him for a time.
“My manager called me probably two hours before the video came out,” Morgan shared. “He was, like, ‘Are you sittin’ down?’ And no one’s ever called me and said that before.”
Morgan reached out to black organizations
Immediately, Morgan reached out to black organizations, including the Black Music Action Coalition (BMAC) an advocacy organization that was created to fight for fair treatment of Black artists and address racism in the music industry.
The country singer claimed he also spoke to record executive Kevin Liles, Eric Hutcherson, executive vice president and chief people and inclusion officer at Universal Music Group and gospel singer BeBe Winans.
“I’ve heard some stories in the initial conversations that I had after that — just how some people are, you know, treated even still today, and I’m just, like, I haven’t seen that with my eyes — that pain or that insignificant feeling or whatever it is that it makes you feel,” Morgan said.
Morgan says he doesn’t know how to put himself into black people’s shoes
When asked by Strahan if he understood why the slur “makes Black people so upset,” Wallen acknowledged his ignorance.
“I don’t know how to put myself in their shoes because I’m not” he began, “But I do understand, especially when I say I’m using it playfully or whatever, ignorantly, I understand that that must sound, you know, like, ‘He doesn’t — he doesn’t understand.'”
Morgan checked himself into rehab
Morgan checked himself into rehab, which he alluded to in a five minute apology video he posted in February on the internet.
“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?” he shared.
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.
He donated money from his soaring sales of “Dangerous: The Double Album” to Black organizations
“Before this incident my album was already doing well,” Morgan 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,” he continued.
Strahan’s questions were tough, but fair. He didn’t let Morgan off the hook. The singer still seems confused, however, as if he’s still wondering what went wrong. Strahan asked Morgan if he believed that the country music industry has a race problem. “It would seem that way, yeah,” but then added, “I haven’t really sat and thought about that.”
Maybe put that on your to do list, Morgan.