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tv   Nightline  ABC  July 24, 2021 12:37am-1:06am PDT

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♪ this is "nightline." >> tonight, lesson learned? one of country music's biggest stars, hits like "whiskey glasses," morgan wallen trying to explain his use of a racist slur. >> i think i was just ignorant about it. >> but his response raising larger questions. >> do you believe there is a race problem? in country music overall? >> i mean -- it would -- it would seem that way, yeah. plus diverse experiment. the camp bringing together people of all races. >> we should be the ones leading the charge when it comes to loving and tearing down the wall of racism.
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get a quote today. ♪ good evening. thank you for joining us. country star morgan wallen discovered the hard way that when you're famous, there's always a camera around. even when you use a racist slur. now wallen tells abc's michael
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strahan he realizes his words matter. >> there are going to be a lot of people who are going to watch this interview and say, he's only sitting down because he wants to clean up his image, it's all a performance. what do yus you say to that? >> i understand i'm not ever going to make everyone happy. i can only come tell my truth, and that's all i know how to do. >> reporter: in many ways morgan wallen embodies country music. the tennessee native rose to the top of the charts in 2018 with hits like "whiskey glasses" and songs like "seven summers," a celebration of small-town living, good friends, good times. ♪ that was seven summers ago ♪ >> reporter: at 28, wallen is one of the biggest stars in the industry. but earlier this year, all that was called into question when this video, obtained by tmz, became public. it showed wallen and a group of his friends coming home after a night out on the town in nashville. >> take care of this [ bleep ],
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[ bleep ]. hey, take care of this [ bleep ], [ bleep ]. >> reporter: a neighbor was recording when wallen said a racial slur. when did you realize what you had done was a big deal? >> my manager called me probably two hours before the video came out. he's like, are you sitting town? no one's ever called me and said that. i realized quickly how much my words matter. the weight and influence that i have now. >> reporter: the fallout was swift. wallen suspended from his label, top radio chains pulled his songs, the academy of country music announced he would no longer be eligible for any awards at their annual ceremony in april. >> did you think your career was over? >> i wasn't sure. i thought there was a possibility it was over. i had to get out of my house really fast because my house was in the video. i went to one of my friends, has a house out in the middle of nowhere. i got a lot of threats. my family got a lot of threats. just sitting in that house, you know, trying to figure out what
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it is i'm supposed to do. >> take me back to that night. >> i had some, you know, some of my longtime friends in town. you know, we'd kind of been partying all weekend. we figured we'd go hard the two or three days they were there. >> how did this happen, out of nowhere? you just refer to someone with a racial slur? >> no, i -- i don't think it was just -- it just happened, you know, i was around should have my friends, you know. we say dumb stuff together. it was -- in our minds it's playful. i don't know if that's -- that sounds ignorant, but that's really where it came from. and it's wrong. and i quickly understood that. >> had there been no video of the incident, we obviously wouldn't be sitting here right now. this is not the first time you said the word. this was the word you used frequently amongst your friends? >> i wouldn't say frequently no. no, not frequently, just around this certain group of friends, i would say. >> in what way was it used? >> one of my best friends, we were all clearly drunk, i was asking his girlfriend to take care of him because he was drunk
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and he was leaving. i didn't mean it in any derogatory manner at all. >> there are people who say, okay, we've been drunk, we never use the word. even when you're drunk, there's certain things you do and don't do. what made you think the word was ever appropriate to use? >> i'm not sure. i think -- i think i was just ignorant about it. i don't think i sat down, hey, this is right or is this wrong? >> do you know the history of the word? >> oh, yeah. i've heard stories in the initial conversations after that, just how some people are treated, even still today, and i'm just like -- i haven't seen that with my eyes, that pain, that insignificant feeling, whatever it is that it makes you feel. >> that goes back to slavery, used by white people to dehumanize black people, make them feel less than. >> exactly. >> it's also things -- you dig deeper, a word that a lot of black people heard before they were terrorized, beaten, or even possibly killed. so it's a word that really -- i've been called it.
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makes you mad. makes you angry. doesn't make you feel good at all. so do you understand why it makes black people so upset? >> i don't know how to put myself in their shoes because i'm not, you know? but i do understand, especially when i say that i'm using it playfully or whatever, ignorantly, i understand that must sound like he doesn't understand. >> reporter: more than a week after wallen was caught on camera using the racial slur, he posted this video apologizing and asking his fans not to defend his actions. >> i also accepted some invitations from amazing black organizations, executives and leaders, to engage in some very real and honest conversations. >> bmac, black music action coalition, i spoke with kevin lyles, eric hutcherson, d.b. is another one i spoke with. >> reporter: morgan wallen got his start on "the voice" in 2014.
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♪ as his fame grew, so did his "bad boy" persona. in may 2020 he was arrested for public intoxication and disorderly conduct. after being kicked out of kid rock's bar in tennessee and arguing outside when bouncers asked him to leave. but for some, what was caught on tape crossed a line. this incident highlighted racial disparities within the industry. ♪ ♪ the land of the free you should try to be black like me ♪ >> reporter: mickey guiden is the first black female country singer to be nominated for a grammy for her song "black like me." at the time she tweeted, when i read comments saying this is not who we are, i laugh, because this is exactly who country music is. i question on a daily basis as to why i continue to fight to be in an industry that seems to hate me so much. >> can we get to the point now where we are also uncovering or working to undo the culture that
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supports an artist like -- how did we even get an artist in this space who is essentially on top of the world and still talks like this? how do we get that? why does he feel comfortable here doing that? >> reporter: in the nine days following the release of the video, downloads of wallen's album skyrocketed by 500%. "dangerous" is one of the most popular albums in the u.s. this year. >> my team noticed whenever this whole incident happened, there was a spike in my sales. so we tried to calculate what the number of -- how much it actually spiked, you know, from this incident. we got to a number somewhere around $500,000. we decided to donate that money to some organizations, bmac being the first one. >> reporter: abc news reache out to bmac but has not herded back. do you believe there is a race problem in country music overall? >> i mean --
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would seem that way, yeah. i haven't thought about that, but yeah. i think if you're talented and you have good music and you perform well and you have a product, then it shouldn't matter what color you are. >> you posted a letter. in the letter you say you're going to take a couple of months away. you were proud of the work that you put in. can you describe or tell us some of the work that you put in? >> i went and checked myself into rehab. and for 30 days i spent some time out in san diego, california. you know, just trying to figure out why am i acting this way? do i have an alcohol problem, do i have a deeper issue? >> what made you want to sit down and talk about this? >> i told a lot of people sorry to their face. but i kind of just wanted to come tell my story and let people know, you know, kind of who i am and how much i regret the mistake i made. >> reporter: for a star who had fans hanging on every note, this had been a reminder of the power of words.
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what do you want to say to anyone who heard you say this word, especially someone with your influence? >> you know -- i said this word out of ignorance. because i said it, it doesn't mean that i think you should follow my lead, by any means. i hope that all my fans know that's not in my heart, that's not something i condone or that i think that they should be doing either. >> our thanks to michael. up next, the unique effort to heal the racial divide. [♪] cooking and eating at home more often means food odors get trapped in your home's fabrics and released back into the air so you smell last night's dinner the next morning. for an easy way to keep your whole home smelling fresh try febreze fabric refresher. febreze's water-based formula deeply penetrates fabrics to eliminate trapped food odors as it dries. spray febreze fabric refresher when you clean up after meals
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♪ one unique summer camp is bringing together families of different races, hoping to bridge understanding and acceptance in a divided nation. this radical idea anchored in faith. here in southern kentucky, where heaven meets the hillside, there's horseback riding, boating, but these are appetizers to the entree some have called a radical experiment that's been going on in these mountains almost 20 years. >> we are very focused on diversity. >> reporter: barefoot republic is a place with an audacious idea. the racial reconciliation can happen at summer camp. the process is simple. bring kids and families together from different backgrounds, different dre
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ethnicities, in hopes of fostering life-changing relationships. tommy rhodes is barefoot republic's founder. >> being barefoot is a spiritual posture. if all you see is somebody's feet, you don't know if they're a prince or pauper. >> reporter: a reflection of his own life experience. >> i grew up in a japanese-american family in a small town in alabama, where it's all black and white. i felt like i didn't really fit in. that experience -- a lot of racism, a lot of prejudice -- i didn't know how god was going to utilize my story. all these experiences he gave me have kind of applied to this mission today. >> reporter: the camp is also unabashedly christian. tommy says their camp tries to reflect what they believe heaven will eventually look like. >> barefoot's mission, you know, is certainly christ-centered. we're very up front about that. but we're also very up front about inviting others into it. we feel like the gospel is reconciliation. so this whole idea of bringing
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people together from different backgrounds, we feel like that's what jesus modeled for us. >> reporter: last august, amid the pandemic, the savour family joined nine other families for a weekend at barefoot, a much smaller version of the regular camp. kavan is from persian descent, his wife annie born in taiwan. they have three girls. diversity is woven into their life. >> we live in a neighborhood that's predominantly caucasian. when i look at my daughters, classroom, yearbook photo, we see that every other child is fully caucasian. i think, wow. my daughter's missing out. >> i think there's something really powerful about being taken out of your normal and coming together and meeting someone and hearing their story. >> i have a lot of people that come alongside me and just say, tommy, i'm so excited about your mission, i've taught my kids to
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be color blind. i have a pit in my stomach when i hear that. i'm thinking, wow. god created us to see color. god created the color. you know? for us not to see and acknowledge our differences, we're missing out on so much of creation. the opportunity we have at barefoot is to come together and not be color blind, but just to acknowledge how beautiful this world is that god has given us. >> reporter: thomas rose is barefoot's director of community relations. he sees this moment as an inflection point. >> what's happening when we look at george floyd and incidents like that, ahmaud arbery, it first and foremost.t happened, - i'm glad we're looking at these situations now wait that we are. because for the first time ever, i believe that everybody's eyes have been opened to see that there is an issue. there still is a racial issue in this country. >> reporter: he says for too long, churches across america have shrunk away from issues of race. >> if we believe what the bible says, if we believe who jesus was, then we should be the ones
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leading the charge when it comes to loving and tearing down the wall of racism. but i feel like we aren't the ones. i feel like we kind of always follow in later. we have to wake up. >> when barefoot started in at campers that were affluent and that were white. there's a lot of fear associated with sending your kids to a place where they were going to be in the minority. we feel like it's just kind of turning the tables upside down a little bit. >> it's been great to get to know other families that kind of focus on the same thing that i do. >> reporter: the demschroeder family have been coming to barefoot for years. they say this moment in the country has been eye opening. >> i didn't recognize there was a problem until people started speaking out about it. it's really changed my perspective on what a lot of people go through that i don't see and i don't understand. because i have the privilege of
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not having to go through all that stuff. >> it's heightened our awareness. we could do more. we could do better. it's more than, i'm going to accept you. it's, no, i need you, i need your perspective to make me better, and vice versa. >> for campers, it teaches them that people that may not look like them can actually be really good, lifelong friends. >> reporter: it's campers-turned-counselors like megan davis, who came to camp in 2006. i'm struck when you talk about barefoot, you clutch your chest as if you're talking about a relative. >> yes, it's very dear to my heart. >> reporter: she attended barefoot for six years. >> so i've seen what i liked about barefoot. what i remember from being a camper is that you're not the majority in the room, right? >> reporter: she's carried her experience as a camp counseling into her career, working at juvenile hall in orange county, california, with kids who are incarcerated. how did your experience at barefoot camp influence the woman you have become?
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>> i've always loved working with kids. barefoot prepared me a to know, there's a spectrum of trauma people experience, there's a spectrum of normalcy people experience. but there's always opportunities to be present with people, to love them. when you're actually showing up and consistently there for them, it can change their life. >> how relevant do you think barefoot camp is, can be, will be, in this current climate in america? where we're in the midst of what many are calling this racial reckoning? >> from being at barefoot, that i have friends of other backgrounds helps me, one, the complexity of everything, also how do i think about the issues? how do i advocate for people who do not look like me? how do i actually make a difference, instead of being someone who's talking about making a difference? >> reporter: for the families here, this camp can be a motto. society where all faces and all faiths can feel at home. >> when i think about a just society, i think about the design for humanity, the design
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for life, the heaven that many of us look forward to. and i think it's going to look like barefoot. they're going to have at the same table black and brown and white, and really every color under the sun. gathering around the table for love. up next, a different kind of opening ceremony. washed your hands a lot today? probably like 40 times. hands feel dry? like sandpaper. introducing new dove handwash, with 5 x moisturizer blend. removes germs in seconds, moisturizes for hours. soft, smooth. new dove handwash. (vo) for over 50 years purina cat chow has been helping cats feel at home. soft, smooth. with trusted nutrition, no wonder it's the number one dry cat food in america. come home to cat chow. i've got moderate to severe plaque psoriasis.
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♪ finally tonight, the much-anticipated and controversial 2020 tokyo olympics is now under way. the opening ceremony was far from traditional. the theme of the ceremony was moving forward. performances included kabuki and tap dance on plywood. japanese-american tennis star naomi osaka lighting the olympic cauldron. missing were the crowds and many of the athletes. usa gymnastics team members holding their own ceremony. naturally, fireworks celebrating an olympics like no other.
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good luck to all the athletes. that's "nightline" for this evening. catch our full episodes on hulu. see you right back here same time next week. thanks for the company, america. good night, have a good weekend.


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