Texas governor explains comments made to artists pulling out of SXSW festival

Texas governor explains comments made to artists pulling out of SXSW festival

The governor of Texas has explained comments telling artists pulling out of an Austin festival over US Army sponsorship not to come back.

Greg Abbott was in Downing Street on Wednesday to sign an agreement with the UK on closer trade co-operation with Texas.

Speaking outside Number 10, Mr Abbott also said he and former US president Donald Trump, the presumptive 2024 Republican presidential nominee, are “friends” and it was “kind of natural” that Mr Trump would have the governor of Texas on his shortlist for potential vice president candidates.

Greg Abbott
The governor gave a thumbs up when he arrived in Downing Street (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

On Tuesday, the governor posted on X, formerly Twitter, telling artists pulling out of the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival: “Don’t come back,” prompting a response from SXSW which said it does not agree with Mr Abbott.

In Downing Street on Wednesday, the governor said: “The reason why they pulled out is because one of the sponsors for South by Southwest is the United States military and bottom line is if you don’t like the military, we don’t need you there.

“We as a country, and the people of our country, we all support our military because we wouldn’t have the opportunity to have South by Southwest, to have concerts, to have freedom like we do without our military.

“Every American must step up and support our military, regardless of what their personal feelings and thoughts are otherwise.”

On X on Tuesday, Mr Abbott said: “Bands pull out of SXSW over U.S. Army sponsorship. Bye. Don’t come back.

“Austin remains the HQ for the Army Futures Command. San Antonio is Military City USA.

“We are proud of the U.S. military in Texas. If you don’t like it, don’t come here.”

The festival responded by saying it disagrees with the governor, adding: “We are an organisation that welcomes diverse viewpoints.

“Music is the soul of SXSW, and it has long been our legacy.

“We fully respect the decision these artists made to exercise their right to free speech.”

But SXSW also said that the army’s sponsorship is “part of our commitment to bring forward ideas that shape our world”.

Hip hop trio Kneecap, from Belfast, Northern Ireland, are among those who have pulled out, and posted on X to explain: “It is done in solidarity with the people of Palestine and to highlight the unacceptable deep links the festival has to weapons companies and the US military.”

In Downing Street, Mr Abbott also told of how he is in “constant communication” with Mr Trump.

“He and I are friends and so it would be kind of natural you’d have the governor of Texas on a shortlist, but I’m honoured to be thought of that way,” he said.

“But my focus really is on being governor of the state of Texas and assisting (Mr Trump) any way I can to make sure that he wins elections and then has a very successful term as the next president.”