Sports broadcaster ESPN pulled its signature song from Monday night’s NFL broadcast after country singer Hank Williams Jr. seemingly compared Barack Obama to Hitler during an interview earlier in the day.
Speaking on Fox News’ Fox & Friends, the singer criticized a golf game between the president and House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican. Williams called the incident “one of the biggest political mistakes ever."
"Come on! It'd be like Hitler playing golf with [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu,” he remarked.
ESPN responded by dropping Williams’ song "Are You Ready for Some Football" from Monday’s broadcast, though it is unclear if this is a permanent decision. The song has been the intro for ABC and ESPN since 1991.
“While Hank Williams Jr. is not an ESPN employee, we recognize that he is closely linked to our company through the open to Monday Night Football,” the company said in a statement. “We are extremely disappointed with his comments, and as a result we have decided to pull the open from tonight’s telecast.”
Williams defended his comments on his website, saying that the analogy “was extreme—but it was to make a point."
“I was simply trying to explain how stupid it seemed to me—how ludicrous that pairing was,” the singer said. “They’re polar opposites, and it made no sense. They don’t see eye-to-eye and never will. I have always respected the office of the president.”
He added that press reaction to right-wing commentators was often unfair, in his view. “Every time the media brings up the Tea Party, it’s painted as racist and extremists, but there’s never a backlash, no outrage to those comparisons,” he said. “Working-class people are hurting, and it doesn’t seem like anybody cares. When both sides are high-fiving it on the ninth hole when everybody else is without a job, it makes a whole lot of us angry.”
You can watch footage of the Fox interview with Williams here.