Garth Brooks Unfairly Criticized for (NOT) Appearing in Trump Ad

Many are calling for the head of Garth Brooks and demanding his cancellation after the misconception that he is endorsing Donald Trump for re-election went viral on social media, along with the idea that he will be appearing in ads for Trump in the coming weeks. However according to the same report being cited by the individuals incited at Garth Brooks for the partisan endorsement, the country singer has not agreed to appear in anything, no endorsement has been made, and the ads in question aren’t even directly part of a political campaign, but an ad blitz by the Department of Health and Human Services focusing on the Coronavirus.

Gospel legend CeCe Winans—who has close ties to the country music and Americana realm and just recently appeared on the Grand Ole Opry—is also swept up in the imbroglio, with many calling for her cancellation as well after she agreed to appear in one of the Health and Human Services ads. Actor Dennis Quaid is also being attacked for participating in the ad campaign.

The names of Garth Brooks and CeCe Winans were both trending on Twitter throughout Friday evening and into Saturday as the misconceptions surrounding Trump endorsements swirled, and were championed by blue-checkmarked journalists, celebrities, and influences. In the case of Garth, some began stepping up to challenge the misinformation. “Garth hasn’t done anything for trump- read the article if you’re gonna comment on it,” Jason Isbell tweeted out Saturday afternoon.

The issues surrounding the HHS ad campaign are convoluted and entangled in political intrigue. But it’s clear Garth Brooks has nothing to do with them at this point. Political news outlet Politico reported on Friday evening (9-25) that CeCe Winans and Dennis Quaid were two celebrities who had agreed to appear in the $300 million-dollar campaign that is looking to “defeat despair and inspire hope, sharing best practices for businesses to operate in the new normal and instill confidence to return to work and restart the economy.”

Garth Brooks was solely mentioned in passing as another possible celebrity to appear in the campaign since his daughter contracted the virus and Garth could speak about it first hand. But the Politico story also states there is no confirmation Garth has agreed to do anything. It only cites two unnamed sources that say he was asked.

“Officials also have discussed the participation of musician Garth Brooks, whose daughter tested positive for coronavirus this summer, for a potential role in the advertising campaign, said two people with knowledge of the plan. Representatives for Brooks did not respond to request for comment,” says the Politico story, which also tries to to paint Garth as amiable to Trump by saying, “Brooks was invited to perform at Trump’s 2017 presidential inauguration but declined the request, saying that he had a conflict with his touring schedule.”

Garth Brooks has never directly endorsed any Presidential candidate, or hinted at any political affiliation throughout his career. But Garth did perform at Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009, so his consideration of participating in Trump’s inauguration—or being asked to participate in the HHS ad campaign—shouldn’t be seen as an endorsement of anything. Garth Brooks was also criticized by some Trump supporters in early 2017 when he said he wouldn’t play the inauguration due to the scheduling conflict.

The issue behind the HHS ad campaign stems from the concern that it’s a play by HHS spokesperson Michael Caputo to use public dollars to boost positivity surrounding COVID-19 in a way that could help Donald Trump in the upcoming Presidential election. However it’s not entirely clear if this will be the end result.

For example, the two ads that are already in production feature NIAID Director Anthony Fauci speaking in conversation with Dennis Quaid about COVID-19, and CeCe Winans—whose brother BeBe Winans contracted and recovered from COVID-19—in conversation with Surgeon General Jerome Adams. The idea is to put star power behind COVID-19 recommendations and safe practices from some of the top infectious disease experts in the United States. Both Anthony Fauci and Jerome Adams hold non-partisan positions, and if anything, are commonly criticized from the political right for their aggressive COVID-19 recommendations.

Dennis Quaid—whose entire interview with Anthony Fauci that is being used in the ad campaign is available through his podcast—addressed the issue on Saturday after calls for his cancellation.

“It is being used by the cancel culture media that I was doing a campaign ad and endorsement of Donald Trump, and that I was paid handsomely for this by diverted CDC funds,” Quaid said in an Instagram video he titled “NO GOOD DEED GOES UNPOLITICIZED.”

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” Quaid continues. “It was about the importance of wearing a mask, about social distancing, and was in no way political. I was not paid one penny for doing this interview and neither was Dr. Anthony Fauci. I am really disappointed that some people who call themselves legitimate reporters don’t do their homework. If you would like to listen to my entire conversation with Dr. Anthony Fauci, you can. Whoever wrote this story obviously did not listen to the interview.”

The Politico article does raise some fair concerns about how the HHS ad campaign is being conducted. However CeCe Winans and others may have not known of the polarizing nature behind the ads when they chose to participate—only that they would be working with top health experts to raise awareness for safe health practices around COVID-19.

But more troubling is how the Politico article used the names and faces of celebrities in a way that made them unwitting pawns to draw attention to the story, and didn’t present both sides of the issue in an attempt to discredit the ad campaign by unnamed sources.

The article states, “Trump administration officials also have sought out celebrities who have said favorable things about the president or are anticipated to provide friendly conversations for administration officials.” This is what alludes to the celebrities being in bed with Trump, even though Garth Brooks and CeCe Winans have not made any public endorsements. It’s also worth noting that Dr. Anthony Fauci has been in his position since 1984, and is not a Trump appointee.

The situation underscores how in this contentious and polarizing time, both the media and the public need to be careful in assigning political motives or affiliations to people without checking facts and thoroughly investigating. Garth Brooks, CeCe Winans, and Dennis Quaid have a right to endorse whomever they want for President, including Trump if they so choose. But that shouldn’t be assigned to them, whether from insinuations in a news article, or social media posts from journalists and other celebrities without checking facts.

8+