The singer of the breakout hit “Rich Men North of Richmond” is now saying he’s annoyed that his viral song, which quickly became a conservative anthem after being boosted by right-wing media and politicians, was used by Fox News moderators to kick off Wednesday night’s GOP presidential debate.
After vaulting from obscurity to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in a matter of weeks, Oliver Anthony is now pushing back on Republicans’ over-the-top embrace of his folksy country ballad, saying he “wrote that song about those people” and it is “aggravating seeing people on conservative news trying to identify with me like I’m one of them.”
The very first question at Wednesday night’s debate centered on the themes in Anthony’s song, complete with the production team airing clips of the video and people reacting to his tune, which focuses on economic frustration with both the elites and welfare recipients. “Why is this song striking such a nerve in this country right now?” Martha MacCallum, one of the debate’s co-moderators, asked the candidates.
While MacCallum and fellow moderator Bret Baier said after the debate that they “tracked” Anthony down and “got approval” to use the song, the singer said in a video on Friday that he didn’t appreciate it being used in that manner.
“It was funny seeing it at the presidential debate because it, like, I wrote that song about those people,” he said. “So for them to sit there and have to listen to that, that cracks me up.”
Anthony added: “That song has nothing to do with Joe Biden. It’s a lot bigger than Joe Biden. That song is written about the people on that stage. And a lot more, too—not just them, but definitely them.”
Besides taking issue with the use of his song being a focal point of the debate, the country crooner also took swipes at right-wing celebrities touting him as a fellow traveler despite his own self-described “centrist” politics.
“The one thing that has bothered me is seeing people wrap politics up in this,” he said while filming from inside his pickup truck. “It’s aggravating seeing people on conservative news trying to identify with me like I’m one of them. It’s aggravating to see certain musicians and politicians act like we’re buddies, like we’re fighting the same struggle here.”
After gaining near-instant fame after the release of his song, country star and right-wing pundit John Rich has offered to produce a record for Anthony, whom he called his “new buddy” in a Fox News interview.
“It’s hard to get a message out about your political ideology or your belief about the world in three minutes and some change, but I do hate seeing that song weaponized,” Anthony said in his video message. “I see the right trying to characterize me as one of their own and I see the left trying to discredit me, I guess in retaliation. That shit’s got to stop.”
He continued: “They’ve done everything they can the last two weeks to make me look like a fool, to spin my words, to try and stick me in a political bucket. And they can keep trying, but I’m just going to keep on writing.”
After taking criticism from liberals over his reactionary lyrics conjuring up Reagan-era stereotypes about “welfare queens,” Anthony has since found himself taking heat from the extreme right for having the audacity to tout diversity.
Despite Anthony’s clear rejection of right-wing media’s embrace of him, Fox News was still celebrating the country singer on Friday, describing him as a diehard right-winger. “He may not call himself a conservative, but, I mean, he is,” Fox News host Pete Hegseth said on Friday afternoon.
Fox News did not immediately respond to a request for comment.