Country music star Jason Aldean‘s latest music video for “Try That In A Small Town,” lasted just one weekend on Country Music Television before the network pulled it in response to an outcry over historically charged references.
Aldean, who has been awarded county music artist of the decade by the Academy of Country Music, performs in front of the Maury County Courthouse in Columbia, Tennessee, in the video. This is the site of the 1946 Columbia race riot and the 1927 mob lynching of an 18-year-old Black teenager named Henry Choate.
Interspersed between performance footage of Aldean are news clips of violent riots and flag burning. A Fox News chyron reads: “State of emergency declared in Georgia.”
“Cuss out a cop, spit in his face / Stomp on the flag and light it up / Yeah, ya think you’re tough,” Aldean, who is from the city of Macon, Georgia, sings. “Got a gun that my granddad gave me / They say one day they’re gonna round up / Well, that (expletive) might fly in the city, good luck / Try that in a small town.”
Aldean has long identified as conservative and has been a vocal supporter of former President Donald Trump.
The video and its subsequent removal from CMT quickly blew up into one of the periodic culture war clashes, with several conservative figures speaking out in favour of Aldean — including Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and Colorado Republican firebrand, U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert.
This isn’t the first time Aldean has been at the center of controversy. In 2015, he made headlines for dressing as rapper Lil Wayne as a Halloween costume, wearing blackface makeup and a wig with dreadlocks.
And in 2017, the country singer was on stage at the Route 91 Festival in Las Vegas during the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Over the years, Aldean has given conflicting statements about his stance on U.S. gun laws, though his music celebrates gun ownership.
“It’s too easy to get guns, first and foremost,” he told The Associated Press after the Las Vegas shooting. “When you can walk in somewhere and you can get one in 5 minutes, do a background check that takes 5 minutes, like how in-depth is that background check? Those are the issues I have. It’s not necessarily the guns themselves or that I don’t think people should have guns. I have a lot of them.”
“In the past 24 hours I have been accused of releasing a pro-lynching song (a song that has been out since May) and was subject to the comparison that I (direct quote) was not too pleased with the nationwide BLM protests,” Aldean said on Twitter on Wednesday afternoon. “These references are not only meritless but dangerous.”
“My political views have never been something I’ve hidden from” and that the song is about a desire to “get back to a sense of normalcy,” he wrote on Twitter.
A CMT spokesperson did not immediately respond to AP’s request for comment.
Maria Sherman, The Associated Press