UPDATE (July 25 – 11:15 pm ET): Per a July 25 report by The Washington Post, the controversial music video was seemingly edited and cut down by six seconds. A clip previously seen in the version shared on July 14, from Fox 5 Atlanta, showing a violent clash during the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests appeared to have been deleted.
Sunny Hostin slammed Jason Aldean after he denied that his song “Try That In A Small Town” referenced race during a Hot Topic discussion on The View on Thursday, July 20. While the country singer denied that the song included references to race, Sunny refused to give him “the benefit of the doubt,” saying that she experienced racism spending time in Macon, Georgia, where Jason is from.
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As the co-hosts dissected the lyrics and interpretation of them, Alyssa Farah-Griffin said that she gave him “the benefit of the doubt,” as not meaning to “stoke division, glorify violence or racism,” but Sunny later explained why she wouldn’t do the same. “This man is from Macon, Georgia. My father is from Augusta, Georgia and Macon, Georgia. I spent many summers there. It is one of the most racist places in this country,” she said. “Don’t tell me that he knew nothing about what that imagery meant. So, I don’t give him the benefit of the doubt.”
Sunny proceeded to explain that the lyrics of the song brought about memories of racist encounters in Southern states, while pointing to her mom in the audience. “The other thing is that what was evoked for me which was, ‘You’re not going to get out of this town’ are those sundown areas,” she said. “My mother and father, because they were in an interracial couple, they were run out of South Carolina by the KKK. My father is still scarred from that experience, and you [pointing at her mother] are still scarred from that experience.”
Sunny continued and revealed that she felt that the choice of imagery was intentional. “So don’t tell me that not only was he aware of what he was doing by using that imagery, he embraces that imagery,” she said. “We have a problem in this country about race, and the biggest problem is that we refuse to admit that it exists.”
Following the backlash to the song, Jason released a statement disputing many allegations about the song. “In the past 24 hours I have been accused of releasing a pro-lynching song (a song that has been out since May) and was subject to the comparison that I (direct quote) was not too pleased with the nationwide BLM protests. These references are not only meritless, but dangerous. There is not a single lyric in the song that references race or points to it- and there isn’t a single video clip that isn’t real news footage -and while I can try and respect others to have their own interpretation of a song with music- this one goes too far,” he said in part.
While Sunny explained that she wouldn’t give him the benefit of the doubt, she did say that as a lawyer she doesn’t believe in censorship. Similarly, Joy Behar also “defend[ed] his right to do the video,” despite calling the song “deplorable”, “annoying”, “very divisive, and provocative.”
The View hosts haven’t been the only people to call out Jason over the song, which was pulled from CMT rotation. Many people have slammed the singer for filming the music video at the Maury County Courthouse in Columbia, TN, where an 18-year-old African-American man was lynched in 1927. The singer didn’t address the music video’s location in his statement.
Fellow country star Sheryl Crow also tweeted a statement speaking out against the song, especially after Jason was a performer at the Route 91 Harvest music festival, where the 2017 Las Vegas shooting took place. “Even people in small towns are sick of violence. There’s nothing small-town or American about promoting violence. You should know that better than anyone having survived a mass shooting. This is not American or small town-like. It’s just lame,” she wrote.