Morgan Wallen is speaking out in his first televised interview following the February incident in which he was caught on camera using a racial slur. In a pre-taped interview with Michael Strahan for Good Morning America, the 28-year-old country singer recalled the incident and the months following.
“I was around some of my friends and we say dumb stuff together. In our minds it’s playful, you know?” Wallen said of using the N-word. “That sounds ignorant, but that’s really where it came from. And it’s wrong.”
Wallen claimed that he did not say the racial slur “frequently” but admitted that when he previously had used the word that it was around that “certain group of friends.”
Strahan asked if he understood why the slur “makes Black people so upset,” to which Wallen responded, “I don’t know how to put myself in their shoes because I’m not. 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.'”
Following the incident, Wallen said he spoke with BMAC (Black Music Action Coalition) as well as Black men in the music industry, including record executive Kevin Liles, Eric Hutcherson, executive vice president and chief people and inclusion officer at Universal Music Group (UMG) and gospel singer BeBe Winans. He also checked himself into rehab.
“I went and checked myself into rehab for 30 days,” he said. “I spent some time out in San Diego, California, just trying to figure it out. Why am I acting this way?”
Wallen told Strahan that the discussions he’s had since the incident have opened his eyes to why this was such a serious matter.
“I heard some stories in the initial conversations that I had after that [incident], just about how people are treated even still today,” he said. “I haven’t seen that with my eyes, that pain or that insignificant feeling, whatever it is that makes you feel.”
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