Morgan Wallen says he 'was just ignorant' in first interview since racial slur controversy

Five months after he was filmed using a racial slur, Morgan Wallen says he was "just ignorant" about his language.

The country star sat down for an interview with Michael Strahan on Friday's "Good Morning America" — his first since the incident, which resulted in his removal from radio rotation, awards show ballots and streaming playlists.

"I think I was just ignorant about it," Wallen said of his use of the slur. "I don't think I sat down and was, like, 'Hey, is this right or is this wrong?'"

On February 2, TMZ posted a video taken by one of Wallen's neighbors in front of the singer's Nashville home. In it, Wallen is heard telling someone to "take care of this (expletive) N-word," while being dropped off.

Wallen told Strahan he was referring to one of longtime friends, and that the group had been "partying all weekend."

"I was around some of my friends, and you know, we say dumb stuff together," he said.

"In our minds, it's playful...that sounds ignorant, but that's really where it came from. And it's wrong."

The 28-year-old also elaborated on the conversations he pledged to have in his initial apology video. He told Strahan he met with members of the Black Music Action Coalition, as well as gospel star BeBe Winans and music executives Kevin Liles and Eric Hutcherson.

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"I've heard some stories in the initial conversations that I had after that," he said. "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 Wallen
Morgan Wallen

He revealed that he checked into a rehab facility for 30 days in San Diego. In February, he said he'd been filmed using the word at the end of a "72-hour-bender."

"(I was) just trying to figure it out: 'Why am I going this way? Do I have an alcohol problem. Do I have a deeper issue?'"

Though he bowed out of all his planned concerts in the wake of the incident, Wallen has been steadily returning to the public eye in recent months, sharing new acoustic performances on social media and even briefly returning to the stage at Kid Rock's honky tonk in Nashville.

However, after Wallen's controversial words his streams and album sales spiked despite major radio players, IHeartMedia and Entercom, announcing his music would be taken out of rotation, according to data by Billboard and Rolling Stone.

At the same time, his actions have reignited conversations on diversity and inclusion in country music industry.

Asked if he believed the genre had a "race problem," Wallen responded, "It would seem that way, yeah. I haven't really sat and thought about that."

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There have been calls for the country to grapple with racism and teach anti-racist behavior. Advocates say the country music industry must have a reckoning of its own. Black country music singer and songwriter Mickey Guyton summed it up with her reaction to the video of Wallen using the N-word.

"When I read comments saying 'this is not who we are' I laugh because this is exactly who country music is," Guyton tweeted in February.

Wallen has remained successful after weathering other controversies this year, despite his country music success, including a public intoxication and disorderly conduct arrest as well as being caught partying maskless in the midst of a deadly pandemic.

"SNL" canceled his scheduled performance in October after the partying debacle but he returned several months later.

Contributing: David Oliver

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Morgan Wallen: Racial slur was ' ignorant,' he says in new interview