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Hank Williams Jr. apologizes for Hitler-Obama comparison

By Michael Martinez, CNN
updated 5:45 AM EDT, Wed October 5, 2011
Hank Williams Jr., pictured on September 12, compared President Obama to Adolf Hitler in an interview this week on Fox News.
Hank Williams Jr., pictured on September 12, compared President Obama to Adolf Hitler in an interview this week on Fox News.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "I am very sorry if it offended anyone," Williams says of his comparison
  • Earlier, the Anti-Defamation League said Williams owed Holocaust survivors an apology
  • ESPN has yet to decide on future uses of Williams' "Are You Ready for Some Football?"
  • Country singer compared Obama to Adolf Hitler in Fox News remarks

(CNN) -- Hank Williams Jr. apologized Tuesday for comparing President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler, a remark that prompted controversy and resulted in "Monday Night Football" pulling his popular musical introduction from this week's game.

His statement Tuesday went beyond his Monday statement, in which he said "my analogy was extreme -- but it was to make a point."

On Tuesday, the country singer stated: "I have always been very passionate about politics and sports and this time it got the best or worst of me.

"The thought of the leaders of both parties jukin' [sic] and high fiven' [sic] on a golf course, while so many families are struggling to get by, simply made me boil over and make a dumb statement, and I am very sorry if it offended anyone. I would like to thank all my supporters. This was not written by some publicist," Williams wrote.

Williams made the comparison on Fox News this week when he was asked about Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, playing on the same team in a June golf game.

Earlier Tuesday, the Anti-Defamation League condemned Williams' comments and praised ESPN for pulling his "Are You Ready for Some Football?" musical recording that opens "Monday Night Football."

"The Holocaust was a singular event in human history, and it is an insult to the memory of the millions who died as a result of Hitler's plan of mass extermination to compare the Nazi dictator to any American president," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL national director and a Holocaust survivor.

Hank Williams Jr. under fire
Hank Williams Jr. pulled from 'MNF'

"Hank Williams Jr. should know better. He owes an apology to Holocaust survivors, their families, and the brave American soldiers who gave of themselves to fight the Nazi menace during World War II. The last thing we need is to enter another election cycle on a sour note tainted with inappropriate, tired and over-the-top analogies to the Nazis," he said.

"ESPN responded appropriately and did the right thing in pulling the Hank Williams Jr. football song from the airwaves," Foxman said.

On Tuesday, ESPN said it had made no decision on Williams' future beyond the Monday night telecast, according to Bill Hofheimer, senior director of communications at ESPN.

Williams has criticized Obama in the past, when the Democrat was running for the presidency. In 2008, Williams was even mentioned in some media outlets as saying he was considering running for the U.S. Senate as a Republican in the next election cycle, but those plans never materialized.

Williams, who supported the Republican ticket in 2008 and even penned a song called "McCain-Palin Tradition," said during that campaign that candidate Obama didn't like the national anthem.

The "McCain-Palin Tradition" song, which is a riff on the Williams tune "Family Tradition," included a line suggesting that Obama has "terrorist friends."

The day before voting in the 2008 election, Williams said: "You know, I'm usually at Monday Night Football tonight, but Colorado, this is a lot more important tonight. Join me now in our national -- you know, that song that, uh, Mr. Obama's not real crazy about, we're singing it right now." Williams then performed his version of the anthem.

In an appearance on Fox News' "Fox and Friends" on Monday morning, Williams referred to a June golf game with Obama and House Speaker John Boehner on the same team, against Vice President Joe Biden and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, as "one of the biggest political mistakes ever."

Asked what he didn't like about it, Williams said, "Come on, come on. That'd be like Hitler playing golf with (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu. OK. Not hardly."

When one of the Fox News interviewers later pointed out that Williams invoked "one of the most hated people in all of the world to describe ... the president," Williams responded: "That is true, but I'm telling you like it is, you know. That just wasn't a good thing. It just didn't fly. So anyway, like Fred Thompson said, you don't want to ask me a question because I'm going to give you too straight of an answer. So talk about something else."

Thompson, an actor and ABC Radio Network commentator, was a Republican senator from Tennessee and one-time candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.

In a statement Monday, ESPN said that while Williams "is not an ESPN employee, we recognize that he is closely linked to our company through the open to 'Monday Night Football.' We are extremely disappointed with his comments and as a result we have decided to pull the open from tonight's telecast."

In a statement issued through a representative, Williams, son of legendary country singer Hank Williams, acknowledged his analogy was "extreme -- but it was to make a point."

"Some of us have strong opinions and are often misunderstood," the country singer said. "... I was simply trying to explain how stupid it seemed to me -- how ludicrous that pairing was. They're polar opposites, and it made no sense. They don't see eye-to-eye and never will."

Williams, however, said he has "always respected the office of the president."

Still, he noted, "Every time the media brings up the tea party, it's painted as racist and extremists -- but there's never a backlash, no outrage to those comparisons. ... Working-class people are hurting -- and it doesn't seem like anybody cares. When both sides are high-fiving it on the ninth hole when everybody else is without a job -- it makes a whole lot of us angry. Something has to change. The policies have to change."

In Nashville, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum said the controversy won't affect its ongoing exhibit of "Family Tradition: The Williams Family Legacy," a 5,000-square-foot display about Williams and his family, including his father, an iconic country singer himself, spokeswoman Tina Wright said.

In 2009, the museum extended the exhibit through the end of 2011, citing "overwhelming positive response," spokesmen said.

CNN's David Close and Denise Quan contributed to this report.

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