Morgan Wallen did his first interview since he got caught on camera using the N-word back in February. This morning, he spoke with Good Morning America‘s Micahel Strahan about the incident and what he’s been doing in the months since.
“I was around some of my friends, and we just… we say dumb stuff together,” Wallen said. “In our minds, it’s playful. That sounds ignorant, but it… that’s really where it came from, and it’s wrong.”
Wallen claimed that he did not use the racial slur “frequently” in the past, but that when he did, he used it around a “certain group of friends.” In the video, which most of America has seen, Wallen maintains that he “didn’t mean it any derogatory manner at all.”
“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.” When Strahan asked Wallen why he said it, Wallen said, “It just happened.”
He explained that he is “not sure” what made him feel that he could use the n-word. “I think I was just ignorant about it. I don’t think I sat down and was like, ‘Hey, is this right or is this wrong?'”
Wallen noted that one of the first organizations he spoke after the incident with was the Black Music Action Coalition, which is an organization that fights for fair treatment of Black artists and addresses racism in the music industry. He said that he donated $500,000 to a number of organizations, including BMAC (he didn’t list the other ones, and GMA reached out to BMAC to verify Wallen’s claim; at press time they hadn’t heard back).
He said that 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.”
Strahan asked Wallen if he actually understood why the slur is so hurtful. “I don’t know how to put myself in their shoes because I’m not [in their shoes]. 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 understand.'”
He was also asked if he felt that the country music industry has a race problem. He replied, “It would seem that way, yeah. I haven’t really sat and thought about that.”