Morgan Wallen has given his first interview since his racial slur controversy earlier this year, appearing on Good Morning America on Friday, July 23. In a pre-taped interview with Michael Strahan, Wallen said that he and his friends "say dumb stuff together" and that "in our minds, it's playful."
"That sounds ignorant, but it — that's really where it came from ... and it's wrong," he continued, telling Strahan that he did not use the slur "frequently" but that when he did, he did so around that "certain group of friends" of his. He added that in the filmed footage, he "didn't mean it in any, in any derogatory manner at all." The 28-year-old said that he was "not sure" what made him feel that he could use the word and said that he thinks he "was just ignorant about it." "I don't think I sat down and was, like, 'Hey, is this right or is this wrong?'" he explained.
In February, Wallen was filmed shouting a racial slur outside his home in Nashville by a neighbor. After the video was sent to TMZ, the Tennessee native faced a number of consequences; his music was pulled from radio stations across the country as well as numerous playlists on streaming services, though it has since begun spinning again; his record contract was reinstated after being suspended indefinitely; he was removed from ACM Awards consideration, was barred from participating in the Billboard Music Awards and had his eligibility altered for the CMA Awards later this year.
When Strahan asked the singer whether he understands why the slur "makes Black people so upset," Wallen admitted, "I don't know how to put myself in their shoes because I'm not." He added, "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.'"
Wallen told Strahan that he has spoken to multiple organizations including the Black Music Action Coalition (BMAC) as well as record executive Kevin Liles, Eric Hutcherson, executive vice president and chief people and inclusion officer at Universal Music Group and gospel singer BeBe Winans. He also revealed that he spent 30 days at a rehab facility in San Diego, California.
After the video was released earlier this year, Wallen apologized in a statement and a social media message to fans and later stated that he would not be performing any shows this summer. "I wanted to let you guys know that…[I] feel like I've really worked on myself. I'm proud of the work I've put in, and in many ways thankful to have had the time to do it. I will always strive to be better," he shared in an April note to fans. "Not only has this time revealed to me the ways in which I want to improve, but it's also reminded me that I am still very proud of who I am and the man I am becoming."
The controversy led to a spike in the success of Wallen's January album, Dangerous: The Double Album, and the singer said that he and his team donated additional earnings from that spike to organizations including BMAC.