Hank Williams Jr. received some of the biggest publicity of his career last October, when he appeared on Fox & Friends criticizing a golf game between President Obama and House Speaker John A. Boehner. "It'd be like Hitler playing golf with Netanyahu," he said. The clip went viral, and ESPN permanently dropped Williams' "Monday Night Football" theme from its programming after 22 years. In a new interview with Rolling Stone, Williams doubles down on the analogy. "I was right," he says. "ESPN might have done me the biggest favor in the world. It has snowballed since October."
More than half the songs on Williams' newly-released LP, Old School, New Rules, are raging political commentaries, from the Obama-blasting "Keep the Change" to "Takin' Back Our Country," which samples his father's vocals while railing against everything from ESPN to social media.
"Old School" is my favorite new song of yours. What does being from the old school stand for in your mind?
Who else can say, "I remember a young Johnny Cash waiting in the wings because he'd hand me his cigarette when he'd go out to sing?" How many can say that, buddy? Not many.
And I'm playing like four or five instruments on here myself. I'm a pretty much hands-on guy. Even the engineers said, "Nobody in this town does this! They don't come in here and play five instruments. Are you crazy?" I said, "Well, I'm not them." It's really fun, getting rid of Curb [Records] and saving some of those good songs and all the new stuff. I don't know. Mickey Mouse and ESPN might have done me the biggest favor in the world because it has snowballed since October. Oh, it has. It has snowballed. [Laughs]
Well, how about $200,000 in T-shirts in cities like Evansville [Indiana] and Wichita, Kansas and Dayton, Ohio. That tell you something? That get your attention, Patrick? Two-hundred thousand dollars in this economy? I said, "I don't get this, why is this?" They said, "Because you're their mouthpiece, that's why. Because they've had it. You're their mouthpiece, and you say what they want to say." And they have made me feel real special. I've never had so many e-mails and letters. That's what makes those songs easier to write.
A lot of these songs seem to have come out of that Fox & Friends experience.
About three of them, I think.
On "Keep the Change," you say, "Fox & Friends want to put me down / Ask for my opinion and twist it around."
Oh, absolutely. I tell it right on the face. And what happens on that song? Uh, fastest downloaded song in country history. Number one streaming, boom. Number one on Amazon.com, boom. A pretty good beginning.
How do you think Fox twisted your words around?
Uh, number one, it's 6:30 in the morning, and you're sitting there to talk about your daddy's CD that's out. You know, come on. There, again, I think they did a great favor. If you can't make an analogy of something like that … my daughter said, "Daddy are you in trouble?' and I told her, "Let me tell you something, baby girl, if I'm in trouble, we're all in trouble." And guess what? I was right. There have been a lot of articles about, "My God, this world today, you can't say anything." Although, if you're a pretty radical left-wing democrat, you can say anything you want to – "Death to George Bush!" and start stabbing a steak with a knife like Rahm Emmanuel – which is on record, by the way. Oh yeah. It's been a breath of fresh air. There is a word called motivation. And believe me, they motivated this one.
Who motivated it?
The American public. That 90-10 poll in my favor? That one did it. All those emails, all those letters. It's basically, "He said exactly the truth, what we're all thinking. These yo-yos are out there playing golf and high-fiving each other?"
Well, what's wrong with going out, playing golf and trying to have a conversation and trying to understand each other?
Well, I'll tell you what's wrong with it. The other side forgot they won the election. Come on. This president? Give me a break. Give me a break. I notice there hasn't been not one of those [golf games] since that day. They kind of forgot, "Oh boy, we're all big buddies." They kind of forgot that after that game. That was a huge boo-boo. Huge boo-boo. That's why I'm out. I'm not going with anybody. That's right. If you see me campaigning, it will be for me, brother, cause I'm the only one with the balls that's going to go through with it. I had a lot to do with [Ohio Republican Governor John] Kasich in Ohio, by the way. Do your homework. No more, I ain't doing none of them.
What don't you like about Romney?
Oh, I'm just not going to do that. He's the guy I'm behind. You know, he's the guy we need, but I'm not going to go out there and do his shows or anything. I mean, we've got the worst in history. We've got to have something. We've got to have a change, that's for sure. They kind of turned me off. I'm not doing any of them. And, you know, they better remember like [Richard] Mourdock, the Tea Party, the guy that just won in Indiana. They better take note of that guy, too. And Marco Rubio. I'm firmly behind Marco Rubio. I really like that guy.
On "Keep the Change," you sing, "I'll keep my freedom / I'll keep my guns / I'll keep my money / and my religion too … I will keep my Christian name and you all can keep the change." What did you mean by that?
Exactly what I said, cousin.
Yeah, but when you talk about your Christian name …
You know, we've got a President that does a call to the Koran or Mecca or whatever. That's what I meant. That's exactly what I meant. I won't be changing my name to whatever. That's exactly what I meant.
How has your opinion of Obama changed from when he got elected until now?
I mean, it's a zero. If I was at my office and I could get to my Internet and list the things like where our economy is – you don't want to go there with me. I mean, the guy is the worst. Giveaway programs, hates America in the first place, forget about the flag. [Imitates Obama] "That's one of those big rich fat cats that makes $35,000 a year," you know what I mean? Oh yeah.
Why do you think he hates America?
We have borrowed ourselves into our poor grandchildren. Now my opinion has gone down. It was pretty low to start with. It's really gone down since then. I mean, there's a whole lot of us out here, we flip the tube off when that guy comes on. We're not listening and we ain't watching.
Yeah but, why do you think he hates America?
Oh, you know I don't know. I don't know about that but it's kind of obvious. I guess when you take a tour, a world tour, to apologize for America. He did that, you know?
Which tour was that?
You know, "We're sorry." Going on a world tour saying, "We're going to be be even with everyone else, we only have 6 percent of the population." Yeah. I wouldn't be going to the duck blinds with any of those guys. It was some of the greatest inspiration I ever had that because that song of mine, "We Don't Apologize for America," there's a guy named Marcus Luttrell that was a lone survivor of the Navy Seals, and he said, "I want to thank you for writing that because every military person in this country is going to buy that song." That's the ones that I care about. Barack and his? I could care less. I'm writing for the ones that mean something to me. Oh, we're pulling in here. Adios, cousin!