Bill O'Reilly falsely claimed that country music trio the Dixie Chicks "have not recovered to this day" from a controversy surrounding remarks critical of President Bush during one of the group's concerts. In fact, in the months following the controversy, the band embarked on the top-grossing country tour of the year and has continued to enjoy strong commercial success.
During the January 9 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Bill O'Reilly falsely claimed that country music trio the Dixie Chicks "have not recovered to this day" from a controversy surrounding remarks critical of President Bush during one of the group's concerts. In fact, in the months following the controversy, the band embarked on the top-grossing country tour of the year and has continued to enjoy strong commercial success.
In March 2003, group member Natalie Maines incited controversy after telling a London audience, "Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas." Initial anger over the statements and a limited radio boycott did reportedly have an impact on the group's album sales. However, the Dixie Chicks' 2003 North American tour proved that any backlash was short-lived. In May, a mere two months after the controversy first erupted, the tour opened in Greenville, South Carolina, to a sold-out crowd. The tour then spent the summer crisscrossing North America and grossed $61 million, making the Dixie Chicks tour the top-grossing country tour of 2003. By the end of the year, their album, Home, ranked fourth on 2003's Billboard Top 200 Album chart, with the group itself finishing the year as the top-selling country group/duo and the third-highest-selling pop group/duo.
The trio's music has also consistently won major awards. Since the anti-Bush comments, it won the Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group Grammy in 2005. The group's song "I Hope," whose proceeds will go to victims of Hurricane Katrina, has been nominated in that category and in the Best Country Song category for the 2006 Grammys, which will be awarded February 8.
O'Reilly stated that "[t]he problem with the Dixie Chicks is they lobbed these bombs and then they wouldn't talk about it." However, the band was quick to aggressively and openly defend its antiwar views. Immediately after the London comments, the band officially stated: "While we support our troops, there is nothing more frightening than the notion of going to war with Iraq and the prospect of all the innocent lives that will be lost." Maines, whose comment provoked the controversy, further explained her remark:
I feel the president is ignoring the opinion of many in the U.S. and alienating the rest of the world. My comments were made in frustration, and one of the privileges of being an American is you are free to voice your own point of view.
The band also made an appearance on ABC's Primetime Thursday in which Maines apologized for "the wrong wording" but remained steadfast: "Am I sorry that I asked questions and that I just don't follow? No." They also claimed the cover of the May 2, 2003, issue of Entertainment Weekly, with slogans such as "Traitors," "Saddam's Angels," "Free Speech," and "Proud Americans" scrawled across their nude bodies.
From the January 9 broadcast of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:
CALLER: Just wanted to [inaudible] on the Harry Belafonte comments. If you recall, the Dixie Chicks just a few years back made some comments -- Natalie Maines made comments regarding Bush not being from her state when she was over in England.
E.D. HILL (co-host): Um-hmm.
CALLER: There was a huge backlash.
CALLER: Radio stations refused to play their songs.
CALLER: Not that Harry Belafonte has anything out, but where's the backlash from his supporters?
O'REILLY: Well, I don't think he has any.
O'REILLY: He's not a commercial entity. Dixie Chicks, it hurt them.
HILL: It did.
O'REILLY: It hurt them.
HILL: I heard the band members were mad at her.
O'REILLY: And they have not recovered to this day. Look, if you're an entertainer and you rely on the goodwill of the American people, then -- I don't say you can't say anything, but you have to come in and explain it rationally. The problem with the Dixie Chicks is they lobbed these bombs and then they wouldn't talk about it.