George Michael explains his outspoken attack on George Bush in this television interview by Trevor McDonald broadcasted on July 12th, 2002. No video of the interview is currently available.
The rock star George Michael has been talking to me in an exclusive interview about the row over his new video and single ‘Shoot the Dog’. It’s a biting satire of George Bush and the President’s tough stance about Saddam Hussein and the war on terror. It also depicts Tony Blair as the President’s poodle. In this
Trevor: I asked George Michael if he now has any regrets.
GM: I believe I have a right to protect the people I love and I’d certainly rather sit in a room here with you today having to defend my views; and I would certainly rather make that satirical video than be sitting in another room a year from now with those same people I love waiting to die and wishing that I had spoken up a year before just in case it had made a difference.
Trevor: He’s no stranger to controversy but this week has been a difficult one even by George Michael’s standards, pilloried by the press on both sides of the Atlantic his new single ‘Shoot the Dog’ has been hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons. It’s a song that questions the wisdom of Britain’s close relationship with America at the time of extreme tension in the Middle East.
GM: I attempted to make a video to try and ask our own Prime Minister who is becoming very presidential in his
The Gaza boys
All that holy stuff
I get the feeling when it all goes off
They’re gonna shoot the dog
They’re gonna shoot the dog.
I see Britain as potentially the dog that gets killed to show its master that whoever’s pissed off with them means business.
Trevor: While the single is undoubtedly controversial it’s the accompanying video that has caused the most outrage. The satirical cartoon is scathing of both Tony Blair and President Bush. Having those opinions is one thing but why did you have to have to make such a vicious and personal attack on President Bush and on Tony Blair?
GM: I think Mr Blair needs some criticism. He’s getting criticism from all sides much more vicious than the criticism that I’ve leveled at him and all that seems to be really inappropriate out there is the fact that I’m a pop star making criticism of the Prime Minister.
Trevor: The question being does Mr Blair need criticism from you?
GM: Absolutely! This is the question that everyone’s asking. I do feel as a British tax payer that I have every right to criticize Mr Blair. I am in a very very fortunate position simply that by opening my mouth I can encourage a debate that may save the lives of people I love and if anyone can honestly say that I’m not dragging some of these questions into the mainstream then I think they are in serious denial.
Trevor: Although some press reports have accused George of trying to cash in on the events of September the 11th the singer insists that the track was written long before the attacks on the World Trade Center.
GM: On September the 11th which I swear, and I swear this on my mother’s grave, I swear this. On September the 11th I was almost finished. I had two lines to go on the chorus and a producer, one of my co-producers ran into the room and said ‘you have to switch on the tv. You’re not going to believe what you see.’ I was just completely frozen because I couldn’t believe the timing of it.
Trevor: In the aftermath of the attack George faced a dilemma. What to do with the song?
GM: As this year’s progressed there started to be voices that were talking about the possibility of the bombing of Iraq as part of the war on terror. I started to hear people saying ‘Come on Blair, Bush.’ Obviously we need someone strong, we need a leader but we don’t need to just follow blindly where Bush goes. We have to look at why this has happened; we have to look at whether bombing Iraq is really the sensible thing to do and could we please all have a bit of a discussion. I was thinking its not getting into the mainstream; maybe this is the reason that I wrote this song when I did; maybe there is a reason that it should go out; maybe I can help in some way. But something in me told me to put my real thoughts and my work together at this point and actually have the courage to stand behind them even though I knew it could be really, really damaging.
Trevor: You must have realised that some Americans would be horrified by the video.
GM: What they’re horrified at is that I’m poking fun at Mr Bush full stop because actually Mr Bush is only a small piece of that video.
Trevor: But he’s their President and that obviously represents a great deal to Americans.
GM: Of course, yes, but it is reactionary to pretend that you can’t satirize a president. They invented the idea of lampooning, its an American tradition. It’s something that they did so that they themselves can attack their own political leaders when they need to.
Trevor: But the backlash has been very harsh and the New York Post has branded you (you must have seen it) ‘a washed up pervert’ and some radio stations have banned the single.
GM: After the New York Post so kindly called me a washed up pervert and insinuated that I was critical of America for trying to defend itself; neither of which (well actually washed up pervert is a matter of opinion for people who are homophobic and don’t actually like music I would say) but for some reason I don’t have a right to talk about anything because I got caught 4 years ago with a police officer in a Los Angeles toilet. Somehow that eradicates all possibility that what I’m saying might be for the best.
Trevor: Do you think this will change forever the way you are seen in America?
GM: I really hope not. I really hope not because you know I love my home there but its very possible that the reactionary element to that article will change that part of my life forever and I think that’s really sad.
Trevor: Last week in a damage limitation exercise George agreed to a telephone interview for American television.
GM: And then at the end of course in the way that these things are done on television someone with a very broad accent ranted at me
Trevor: ‘You can’t tell me that you did not intend to slam our country when you slam our President. By portraying him going to bed with your Prime Minister you slam our country and people can say that we do it ourselves. Excuse me, you can talk about your own family but I’ll be danged if I’m gonna let anybody else step in from the outside and talk about them’.
GM: And at the end of it a couple of people started cheering with her and then the rest of the audience booed her.
Trevor: ‘George Michael before you respond I want to let you know that we have some mixed reaction here in the audience. We have a lot of people booing what Leah had to say’.
GM: So that audience pretty much stood behind me.
Trevor: It was a PR exercise that may have worked in America but here it backfired. Certain newspapers chose to report that it was George who had been heckled and booed by the studio audience. This along with many other stories printed over the last 10 days have led him to believe that he’s the target of a deliberate smear campaign.
GM: I know who this is about. This is about Rupert Murdoch and my making what he considered to be statements that were anti-American at this time is something that’s obviously, I’m the kind of guy that has to be slapped down and I’m just saying I won’t be slapped down. You might even take away my career. You might manage it but I know that I am not going to let it happen without a fight and basically I am going to be in the
Trevor: But you seem excited by the prospect of a fight?
GM: No! I’m not excited, believe
Trevor: How much of this negative publicity do you think is due to the fact that you put this record and what you said in it or how much do you think is due to the fact that you are a gay man?
GM: There’s a lot of connection in the press as to those 2 things. You know maybe because I’m stupid enough
Trevor: How much is all this media attention just fuelling the controversy you’ve caused?
GM: Well I don’t think
Trevor: Why do you think you are equipped to be making these points now?
GM: Well I’d say why do you think I’m not? That would be my question. I sit and I watch the television like every other member of the public and if we’re not supposed to know and not supposed to get involved in the discussion then that’s why I made the record because I don’t believe that.
GM: No. This would be the most stupid publicity stunt anyone ever pulled. I mean look at the publicity I’ve got out of it. I’m not stupid. I knew I was going to walk into a wall of criticism because these are very reactionary times but they’re also very urgent times and I felt that I had to do this. If anyone really thinks that I wanted to give up the possibility of going back to my home in America and to actually put myself in danger by being open to misrepresentation then they’re stupid.
Trevor: Is this for you all a precursor to you for getting into active politics?
GM: I would say actually if I wanted to be in any way active in politics in the future I should just stay doing what I’m
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