Oliver Anthony is tired of right-wing figures using his viral No. 1 hit, “Rich Men North of Richmond,” to advance their political narratives. After the song was used as the opening talking point during the Republican presidential debate on Wednesday, the country singer posted a video on his YouTube channel clarifying that “those people” on stage were the rich men he was actually singing about.
In the video, Anthony claims his song wasn’t meant to push a political viewpoint. “The one thing that has bothered me is seeing people wrap politics up into this,” Anthony said. “I’m disappointed to see — like, it’s aggravating seeing people on conservative news try to identify with me, like I’m one of them. It’s aggravating seeing certain musicians and politicians act like we’re buddies and act like we’re fighting the same struggle here, like we’re trying to present the same message.”
He continued by addressing how “Rich Men” was dragged into the debate. “It was funny seeing my song at the presidential debate,” Anthony said. “Because it’s like, I wrote that song about those people, you know? So for them to have to sit there and listen to that, that cracks me up. But it was funny kinda seeing the response to it. That song has nothing to do with Joe Biden! It’s a lot bigger than Joe Biden. That song was written about the people on that stage, and a lot more, too — not just them, but definitely them.”
Anthony added, “It’s hard to get a message out about your political ideology or your belief about the world in three minutes and some change. But I do hate to see that song being weaponized. Like, I see the right trying to characterize me as one of their own, and I see the left trying to discredit me, I guess, in retaliation. That shit’s gotta stop.”
Elsewhere in the video, Anthony addressed criticism from “the left” for his “Rich Men” lyrics about “the obese milkin’ welfare” and using tax dollars to buy Fudge Rounds. “If you listen to my other music, it’s obvious that all of my songs that reference class defend the poor,” he said. “‘Doggon It’ is a good example of that: ‘Needles in the street, folks hardly surviving on sidewalks/ Next to highways full of cars, self-drivin’/ The poor keep hurtin’, and the rich keep thrivin.’ That’s what I like to sing about.”
He went on to say that the song’s message is intended to address “the inefficiencies of the government because of the politicians within it that are engulfed in bribes and extortion” before referencing an article about teenagers in Richmond who are going hungry because there’s not enough food at home and school is out for the summer. Anthony then cited statistics about “30 or 40 percent” of EBT money being spent on snack food and soda.
“Welfare only makes up a small percentage of our budget, you know? We can fuel a proxy war in a foreign land, but we can’t take care of our own,” he said. “That’s all the song’s trying to say. It’s just saying the government takes people who are needy and dependent and makes them needy and dependent.”
Earlier this week, Anthony sat down for an interview with Fox & Friends, during which he pissed off a whole bunch of conservatives by advocating for diversity instead of being racist. “We are the melting pot of the world, and that’s what makes us strong is our diversity,” he said. “And we need to learn to harness that and appreciate it and not use it as a political tool to keep everyone separate from each other.”
In a previous YouTube video, he claimed to “sit pretty dead center down the aisle on politics.” So, it seems like Anthony has been consistent about his apparent lack of political leanings, but nobody was trying to hear it.