Below is the transcript of the interview of George Michael on CNN Talkback Live aired on July 3, 2002, 15:00 ET about the controversy of his political satire song “Shoot the Dog” and its video.
Listen, musician George Michael is standing by to defend his controversial new video. You don’t want to miss this conversation. TALKBACK LIVE continues in a moment.
Up next: George Michael’s “Shoot the Dog” video takes a shot at America’s response to September 11. He says he hopes it will make people laugh and dance. We’ll see what it makes you want to do right after this.
NEVILLE: Welcome back to TALKBACK LIVE, everybody.
George Michael is defending his music video “Shoot the Dog.” In it, he gooses the queen, hops into bed with the prime minister’s wife, and portrays Tony Blair as George Bush’s lapdog. He also criticizes the U.S.’ response to September 11.
Let’s take a look.
OK, the video gets a little bit more risque than that. But, anyway, George Michael is in Europe and joins us now on the phone.
We want welcome you to TALKBACK LIVE, sir.
GEORGE MICHAEL, MUSICIAN: Hi, Arthel. Nice to meet you. Nice to talk to you.
NEVILLE: Same here.
Listen, this is clearly satire. What message were you trying to portray in the song?
MICHAEL: Well, I think, before I even give you the message that I am trying to portray, I have to actually tell you that there is no message whatsoever that criticizes the U.S.’ response to the al Qaeda attack. This song is really about a current situation, which is the possible bombing of Iraq. I would never criticize America for its response after September 11. I think its response was perfectly natural and acceptable.
But, really, the criticism within this track is of Mr. Blair for not involving the British public in any discussion on the possible bombing of Iraq. And the fact that the satire makes fun of President Bush is more to do with the fact that the British don’t have a great deal of confidence in President Bush, or many of us don’t. The fact that he is the American president is relevant, of course. But it is really not intended as an attack either on the response to al Qaeda or on the American system in general.
NEVILLE: OK, hang on for me, George Michael, because I want to go ahead and put up some of your lyrics on the screen.
It says: “Nine, nine, nine, gettin’ jiggy. People, did you see that fire in the city? It’s like we’re fresh out of democratic. Got to get yourself a little something semiautomatic. Yes.”
So, what does that mean?
MICHAEL: Well, really, the criticism there is of the attack itself.
The line is — actually, I’ll be completely honest. This was a song that I was recording in September last year. It was a song trying to describe the danger that was evolving between what I would call the secular Western world, relatively secular Western world, and the fundamentalist factions within the Middle East.
The line about — what I am basically saying there is that they — that — well, al Qaeda is obviously the subject, that they took the law into their own hands, that democracy was not a part of it. I don’t think that should be misconstrued as some kind of criticism. It’s a reference to what happened, and saying that, basically, things are going crazy.
NEVILLE: And so your idea here was to go ahead and have your song be a catalyst for a political debate.
MICHAEL: In Britain principally, yes.
I think it should be remembered that it was never intended to be released in America, because I simply think that would have been — well, apart from bad timing, it would have been disrespectful. And it was never intended for release in America. It will not be released as a single in America. I don’t have — I have not even decided on my record company for worldwide release.
The fact that it is released in Europe is because, for the first time, an artist is being released by a record company without a record contract. So, nothing has been decided for America. There was no plan to release it in your country. And I think it would have been disrespectful to make this issue in a country which obviously has suffered much loss, and very recently. This was absolutely an attack on Tony Blair, principally, and the perspective which is really predominant in Europe right now, that he is not questioning enough of Mr. Bush’s policy. Now, of course, this has changed this week. But since September 11, there has not seemed to be any discrepancy between Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair’s views. And many people are — as I am sure many Democrats in the states — are not exactly thrilled that Mr. Bush is the man in control right now.
NEVILLE: Let me get back to something you said earlier, that — you said that this was not intended to be released in the U.S. It isn’t now. Probably it won’t be released here. But you are a…
MICHAEL: I would never have contemplated releasing this track with this subject matter at this time or any time in the immediate future, as a single for sure.
NEVILLE: But all I am saying, though, you are popular here as well. So does it surprise you, though, that it got over here?
MICHAEL: Well, it doesn’t surprise me that it got over here. The manner in which it got over there — which is, strangely enough, both the competitor of the tabloid that I spoke to and supported in this country over this issue, which actually shares my view. Its rival paper is another Rupert Murdoch paper called “The Sun.” And I have a great suspicion that it was actually “The Sun” that called “The New York Post” and said, “Look, blast this guy,” which is what they did, libelously and extremely salaciously.
And, yes, I am surprised at this reaction. I am surprised that “The New York Post” thought they could go that far and misrepresent me to the degree that they implied that I am actually a sympathizer of al Qaeda, which, apart from anything else, puts my life in danger.
NEVILLE: Bottom line: You were not being anti-American. You were criticizing…
MICHAEL: I was anti-Bush, absolutely not anti-American.
NEVILLE: Criticizing Mr. Bush, Criticizing Mr. Blair, but not anti-American.
MICHAEL: It’s anti-Mr. Blair and anti-Mr. Blair’s reluctance to challenge Bush. It is not anti-American in any sense. And I have to be — to put it very plainly, I would consider myself — I would say I have been in love five times in my life. And three times — one of them is currently — I have a 6-year relationship with a man from Texas. And it’s going strong. If I hate Americans, then I am a glutton for punishment, because I seem to fall in love with them all the time.
NEVILLE: Because Americans are great.
NEVILLE: Hey, George Michael, listen, let me ask you this. I am going to put you on the spot a little bit here — and letting everybody know that. You don’t have to agree to this, but I am wondering, if you wouldn’t mind — you have got a lot of fans here in the audience — I am wondering if you would be willing to take a couple of questions.
MICHAEL: Absolutely. Absolutely. I would be more than delighted, yes.
Then I am going to ask you to stand by for me. I have to take a break.
And you at home, stand by. We’ll be back on the other side with George Michael.
NEVILLE: Stand up, though, for me, Amanda. Yes, you have to stand up here, because you know how we do it on TALKBACK LIVE. We continue the conversation during the break. Amanda had some interesting things to say.
We have George Michael standing by on the phone with us in Europe. We are talking about his latest video, “Shoot the Dog.”
And, Amanda, you had what to say?
AMANDA: Oh, I was saying that I do not think it was against America. It was more focused on Bush and Blair, like he wanted it to be. And him not releasing it in America was a good decision, because it was, like, we went through the tragedy. And, of course, we wouldn’t find it tasteful because of what happened. But you have to think he has a right to his own opinion.
NEVILLE: George Michael, I know you are listening. So, any time you want to jump in here, feel free.
MICHAEL: Who am I speaking to, by the way?
NEVILLE: You’re talking to Amanda right now.
MICHAEL: Oh, hi, Amanda. How are you doing?
Well, I think, absolutely, I would agree with that point. I think that satire is used for political purposes all the time. But, obviously, there’s a time and a place. And I really, really — I have never really — until this whole issue in “The New York Post” came up, I wouldn’t even have wanted the video shown. I was hoping that there wouldn’t be too much fuss.
But, at the end of the day…
(PHONE RINGING) MICHAEL: I’m sorry. There’s a phone ringing in here.
NEVILLE: You are so popular. You’ve got all those phone calls coming in.
MICHAEL: I know. I’m so popular.
NEVILLE: I’ll tell you what. If you’ll hang on for me, George Michael, because I have Tara, who is calling in from Canada right now, who would like to say something.
Go ahead, Tara.
CALLER: Hey, George.
CALLER: Congratulations on speaking your mind.
MICHAEL: Thank you, Tara. Thank you.
I think it is — in the current climate, it can be very difficult to speak your mind. But sometimes, when I think — I believe we are all in danger. And I think this discussion needs to be widened.
CALLER: I think — I hope you release this in Canada.
MICHAEL: Well, I don’t know. I would have to see how people felt about that in Canada. This was really aimed at widening the discussion in Britain. And I think there are other people that are doing the same thing in Britain. But, of course, when somebody who is really bang in the middle of the mainstream says something like this, it kind of gets more attention, which is why I chose to do it.
I must admit, I was very nervous to do it. But sometimes I think you have to go with your instincts and go with what your heart is telling you.
NEVILLE: OK, I have Leah from Florida here.
And 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, but excuse me. You can talk about your own family, but I’ll be danged if I am going to let somebody else step in from the outside and talk about them.
MICHAEL: Well, I…
NEVILLE: OK, but I have — George Michael, before you respond — George Michael, before you respond, I want to let know that we have some mixed reaction here in the audience. We had a lot of people who were booing what Leah had to say, as well as cheering.
But Chris over here is — oh, George, you know what? I am running out of time, so I am going to let you respond before we go.
Go ahead, George.
MICHAEL: I would like to — I understand how volatile people feel about this. I understand totally that, at a time like this, there is a lot of support for the president. And, really, even though I do not have a great deal of belief in President Bush, I think, in all honesty, that it was not intended to offend Americans. And I think there are many Americans that probably share my view that there are people with less personal interests in this particular issue. And don’t let us forget that.
NEVILLE: George Michael, thank you for coming to TALKBACK LIVE. Thank you for getting your…
MICHAEL: Thank you. Thank you.
NEVILLE: I think you got your point across, OK?
MICHAEL: Thank you very much.
NEVILLE: All right, we are out of time.
I am going to be off for the holidays tomorrow and Friday. But CNN’s Carol Lin will fill in for me. I’ll see you again on Monday.
I’m Arthel Neville. Have a great Fourth of July. And be safe.
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- Graham Norton Interview with George Michael (2003)