A music festival in Naperville, Illinois, is being pressured by liberals to kick country music star Toby Keith from the lineup of their upcoming event this summer because the singer performed at President Donald Trump’s inauguration last month.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the Naperville Exchange Club announced earlier this month that Keith would perform during the opening night of Ribfest, their annual festival. But residents who oppose the decision say Keith is too “political,” citing his inauguration performance and the lyrics of his songs — although they never listed which songs.
“In the current political climate, it seemed overtly polarizing and political,” Naperville resident Amy Kakkuri told the Tribune. “It would have been short-sighted for them to not expect this reaction.”
Others spoke out on Twitter:
Naperville RibFest,PLEASE cancel Toby Keith in June. He's not good representative for America. Keith stands w/ white supremacist. Please RT
— onerace-humanrace (@Barbara25603724) February 10, 2017
Still, organizers for the event defended their decision to include Keith in the lineup in a Facebook post.
“Ribfest talent is negotiated and selected months in advance of the event,” the organizers wrote. “At no time does the Exchange Club of Naperville make any political statement or endorsement. At no time are artists booked based on their political beliefs or actions.
The controversy even caught the attention of former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer:
This ticks me off. Conservatives put up w liberal clap-trap from Hollywood & Broadway. Now one patriotic country singer is subject to this?
— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) February 10, 2017
Keith became controversial figure last month when Trump transition officials announced he would headline a concert one day before Trump’s inauguration. However, he made it clear prior to performing that his performance had nothing to do with politics — he simply wanted to perform for his fans and America.
Still, Keith says he is not a Republican or a Democrat. He has stated publicly many times that he is an independent.
And despite the pressure, the Naperville Exchange Club said Keith will perform at their festival.