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Out of My Head

Hank’s right to say stupid things doesn’t protect him from the consequences

November 14th, 2011 9:31 am by Jan Hearne

The Country Music Awards Wednesday night held one, maybe two attractions for me: Keith Urban and Keith Urban’s salute to the great Glen Campbell.
I never made it past Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley’s opening blunder.
There was Carrie, looking all the world like Belle Watling on Prom Night, and Paisley wearing a 10-gallon hat on a two-gallon head. The co-hosts did a bit based on Hank Williams Jr.’s firing from ESPN for comparing President Barack Obama to Hitler. Paisley sang a clever adaptation of William’s “Family Tradition,” ending with the lyrics, “you can get drunk and carry on but you can’t compare the president to Hitler.” Wink, wink, grin, grin.
I was taken aback. Then I was stunned when Williams Jr. appeared on stage behind them. When the audience rose to its feet in thunderous applause, I reached for the remote. I’m sorry I didn’t get to see Keith Urban or the great Glen Campbell.
Thursday, the media described the “lampoon” and Williams’ appearance as the beginning of his “circuit to re-acceptance,” “a laugh-out-loud moment,” and reported “the trio got a standing ovation of hearty laughs.”
It appears I’m the only one outraged. Full disclosure: I voted for Obama, and I will vote for him again. Call me biased, if you will, but I saw last night’s endorsement of Williams as a “by God” moment, as in “ain’t no liberal wimps going to tell us what to say, by God.”
I just don’t get this “H---, yeah!” reaction: “Hank Williams Jr. said something extreme and stupid. That’s pretty cool. Ha, ha.”
Adolph Hitler was responsible for the deaths of 6 million Jews in the cruelest ways imaginable; Obama pushed through an unpopular health care bill and is shouldering the blame for a fractured economy he inherited from George W. Bush, et al. Not even close.
Williams’ remark was ridiculous and wrong. Though our constitution guarantees freedom of speech, it does not protect us from every consequence of our utterances.
I guess the CMA debacle (and I’m apparently the only one calling it that) rankles me so much because it represents the extreme hypocrisy in this country. There was a room full of very wealthy good old boys and gals, dressed to the nines and tens, acting like they are the only thing standing between us and the loss of True American Values. And yet, they applaud a man for extreme disrespect to the president.
Hank Williams Jr. is the son of a brilliant but haunted man who changed music forever. I love Hank Williams, but his son — he’s just a buffoon who should never have gotten a standing ovation for saying something stupid.
Jan Hearne is Tempo editor for the Johnson City Press. Reach her at

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