The singer-songwriter responsible for the unexpected summer hit Rich Men North Of Richmond released a video statement on Friday that lamented the way that it has been “weaponized” by political figures, including the way that GOP candidates addressed it at Wednesday night’s presidential debate.
“It was funny seeing it at the presidential debate, because it’s like I wrote that song about those people. So for them to have to sit there and listen to that, that cracks me up,” said the singer-songwriter, Oliver Anthony. “It was funny kind of seeing the response to it.”
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At the debate, Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum noted that Anthony’s song speaks “of alienation, of deep frustration with the state of government and of this country. Washington DC is about 100 miles north of Richmond.” The song was essentially a jumping off point for the candidates to deliver introductory messages, including attacks on President Joe Biden.
But in his statement, Anthony said that the song “has nothing to do with Joe Biden. It’s a lot bigger than Joe Biden. That song was written about the people on that stage, and a lot more too, not just them, but definitely them.”
He added, “I do hate seeing that song being weaponized, like I see the right trying to characterize me as one of their own. And I see the left trying to discredit me, I guess in retaliation. That s–t’s got to stop.”
Anthony denied that the song was anti-poor. Critics on the left have keyed in to one of the lyrics, Lord, we got folks in the street, ain’t got nothin’ to eat. And the obese milkin’ welfare. Well, God, if you’re 5-foot-3 and you’re 300 pounds. Taxes ought not to pay for your bags of fudge rounds.
Anthony said, “If you listen to my other music, it’s obvious that all of my songs that reference class defend the poor.” He said that “there may some people who misunderstood my words” in the song.
Bret Baier, co-moderator of the debate, told Politico that they got Anthony’s approval to use the song in the debate.
“I’ve got to be clear that my message, like with any of my songs, it references the inefficiencies of the government because of the politicians within it that are engulfed in bribes and extortion,” he said.
The welfare bit, he said, “references a news article I read earlier this summer that adolescent kids in Richmond are missing meals over the summer because their parents can’t afford to feed them and they are not in school for cafeteria lunch. And meanwhile, I think like 30 to 40% of the food bought with welfare or EDT money is in a classification of like snack food and soda…And that’s not the fault of those people. Welfare only makes up a small percentage of our budget. If we can fuel a proxy war in a foreign land, but we can’t take care of our own. That is all the song is trying to say. It’s just saying that the government takes people who are needy and dependent and makes them needy and dependent.”
Anthony’s song is currently No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
“The one thing that has bothered me is seeing people wrap politics up into this,” he said in the video. “…It’s aggravating seeing people on conservative news try to identify with me like I’m one of them. It’s aggravating seeing certain musicians and politicians act like we are buddies and act like we are fighting the same struggle, like we are trying to present the same message.”
He said later in the video that the song has drawn “such a positive response from such a diverse group of people, and I think that terrifies the people that I sing about in that song. And they have done everything they can in the last two weeks to make me look like a fool, to spin my words, to try and stick me in a political bucket. And they can keep trying, but I am just going to keep writing.”
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