He was caught on camera using racist language, but Morgan Wallen says the race issue likely extends across the country music industry.
"It would seem that way, yeah," the "Whiskey Glasses" singer told "Good Morning America's" Michael Strahan in a Friday interview, when asked if there's a "race problem" in country music.
"I haven't really sat and thought about that," Wallen, 28, said.
Wallen apologized in February after TMZ published a video in which Wallen uses a racial slur after a night out in Nashville with a group of friends. In the footage, the performer appeared to tell the companions goodbye by saying to "take care of this ... [N-word]."
"I was around some of my friends, and we say dumb stuff together," Wallen told Strahan. "In our minds, it's playful. That sounds ignorant, but that's really where it came from ... and it's wrong."
Asked if he understood why the slur upsets Black people, Wallen replied, "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 that must sound, you know, like, 'He doesn't — he doesn't understand.'"
Wallen faced fierce backlash after the footage came to light, with country music stars such as Mickey Guyton and Maren Morris criticizing him. His record label also dropped him, and radio stations refused to play his songs.
"Half of my Hometown" singer Kelsea Ballerini tweeted at the time that Wallen's language "does not represent country music," but Morris countered that it "actually IS representative of our town because this isn’t [Wallen's] first 'scuffle' and he just demolished a huge streaming record last month regardless. We all know it wasn’t his first time using that word. We keep them rich and protected at all costs with no recourse."
Wallen claimed ignorance during his Friday interview, saying, "I don't think I sat down and was, like, 'Hey, is this right or is this wrong?'"
The songwriter said following the controversy, he checked himself into rehab in California and used a boost in record sales to make a donation to the Black Music Action Coalition (BMAC) and other charities.
"We tried to calculate what the number of how much it actually spiked from this incident. We got to a number somewhere around $500,000, and we decided to donate that money to some organizations — BMAC being the first one," Wallen said.
Strahan said that critics might say Wallen only sat down for his first interview since the incident in order to "clean up his image." But Wallen responded, “I understand that. I’m not ever going to make everyone happy."
"I can only come tell my truth," Wallen said, "and that’s all I know to do.”