Upcoming Toby Keith Performance Draws Controversy Due to Trump Inaguration Gig
Toby Keith has been announced to perform at the annual Naperville Ribfest in Naperville, Ill., much to the chagrin of some local music fans. Over the weekend, residents protested the singer's opening night performance, calling him "polarizing" and "too political" because he recently took part in President Donald Trump's inauguration festivities.
The Chicago Tribune spoke to several Naperville residents about Keith's upcoming performance, and many said they will be absent from this year's Ribfest on June 30. One resident, Amy Kakkuri, said she felt the decision to invite Keith was "disappointing" as the Exchange Club, the organization that runs the Ribfest, aims to raise money to help eliminate child abuse and domestic violence.
"In the current political climate, it seemed overtly polarizing and political," Kakkuri said. "It would have been short-sighted for them to not expect this reaction."
Some of those who objected to Keith's upcoming performance also felt his lyrics are inappropriate.
Despite the backlash, Keith will take the stage as planned. The Exchange Club confirmed the news via Facebook on Tuesday (Feb. 7).
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"Ribfest talent is negotiated and selected months in advance of the event," the Facebook post reads. "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 statement adds that any comment posted to their page that is "politically charged or not focused on Ribfest" will be taken down.
After it was announced that he would perform at the Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration on Jan. 19 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., Keith found some fans miffed.
In a statement to Entertainment Weekly he didn't back down from his decision to perform. “I don’t apologize for performing for our country or military,” he said. “I performed at events for previous presidents [George W.] Bush and [Barack] Obama and over 200 shows in Iraq and Afghanistan for the USO.”
Keith did not publicly support any candidate in the bitterly-contested 2016 election, and he declined to say who he would vote for when the Tribune asked him in August, indicating that he was not a fan of either nominee.
"This election, I don't think it makes a difference," he said. "I can't believe there's 300 million Americans in this country, and we've got these two as our final two. It's absolutely crazy."
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