It’s a hard lesson: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them,” were Maya Angelou’s words to Oprah Winfrey.
So it should come as no surprise when Kid Rock—a notorious, right wing icon, feeling at home amongst Fox & Friends, hosted live this morning from Rock’s new club in Nashville—would be bold enough to say about a co-host of The View, “Screw that b#### Joy Behar” on live television. Given the turns of phrase coined at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue these days, how can we even be shocked.
However, even the hosts of Fox & Friends had to stop and apologize for Rock’s comments, clarifying that they and their show does not share his views. Nearly immediately, this incident caught the attention of city leaders. Councilman Freddie O’Connell announced before 9:00 a.m. that he “will not be participating in tomorrow’s Nashville Christmas parade. The choice of Grand Marshal evokes neither the spirit of Christmas nor the inclusivity I think represents the best of Nashville.”
I will not be participating in tomorrow’s Nashville Christmas parade. The choice of Grand Marshal evokes neither the spirit of Christmas nor the inclusivity I think represents the best of Nashville.
— Freddie O’Connell (@freddieoconnell) November 30, 2018
The Mayor’s office soon followed. “If Kid Rock is still the grand marshal tomorrow, the mayor is inclined not to participate,” Mayor David Briley spokesman Thomas Mulgrew said in a statement to The Tennessean and other media outlets.
But the story does not begin this morning. Kid Rock has been Kid Rock for decades, and we have known him for what he is all along. This morning does not mark a shift, but is the latest episode in a trend. But, today, his behavior finally mattered to those worried about who gets to represent Nashville.
Why didn’t his history of anti-LGBT, racist comments, his hatred of all things “PC”, his misogyny—why didn’t these things matter yesterday. Why yesterday were we willing to let this man be the holiday face of our city, but today have qualms about tomorrow?
This question is more than rhetorical. Yesterday morning, I sent the parade’s organizers an email requesting comment. Why, I asked, had the parade committee chosen such a polarizing figure, whose anti-transgender views are known, and around whom charges of racism have swirled. I forwarded this email to Mulgrew, requesting comment from the mayor’s office.
The parade organizers never responded, but the mayor’s spokesman did. “Mayor Briley will continue the tradition of the Mayor of Nashville attending the Christmas Parade,” Mulgrew wrote. “The mayor is a strong advocate for equality and inclusion in our city and hopes to see Nashvillians from our many diverse communities as he walks the route.”
Today, I spoke with Mulgrew in an attempt to clarify what exactly had changed between yesterday and today. I wondered, because yesterday Kid Rock was a man with a long history of demeaning racial and sexual minorities seeking rights. Today, he targeted on public individual and topped the news.
Understandably, the mayor’s office was concerned that, after this morning’s show, the public association of Rock with Nashville problematized the issue for city officials. Rock presented himself as a pubic face for Nashville, and for the mayor to appear in the parade now would certainly lend some credibility to that impression. Thus, such a statement was of a different order than statements he might have made as a private individual.
Understandable, to a certain degree. But in very public, political speeches made just last year in Nashville and Grand Rapids, Rock made clear his view that, “Things shouldn’t be this complicated and, no, you shouldn’t get to choose. Because whatever you have between your legs should determine the bathroom that you use.”
In separate incidents sparking charges of racism, Rock demeaned the Black Lives Matter movement and said, “F### Colin Kaepernick.”
So what has really changed for our public figures? From where I sit, it seems to be that it’s front page news today. Even with our short attention spans, we won’t have forgotten by tomorrow, so it is still an urgent matter of conscience. Only when the issue burns hot, it seems, is it too much to be asked to share the public eye with men such as Rock.
The mayor, I believe without a moment’s hesitation, is a good man. He is a proven ally to minority communities in our city. And I also know that, being mayor, he has many interests to balance, including maintaining tradition. Nevertheless, yesterday, he missed an opportunity to stand in front of the issue, to proactively make a stand when it meant something to us, and instead was forced to REACT to a man like Kid Rock hijacking Nashville’s image.
Oprah altered Angelou’s quote, adding, “The first time.” This is a lesson the mayor may want to take to heart after today. When men like Kid Rock “show you who they are,” Mayor Briley, “believe them the first time.”