George Michael defends 'Shoot the Dog'
LONDON, England -- British pop star George Michael is defending his decision not to release his controversial new single "Shoot the Dog" in the United States.
The song and video have been blasted for their parodies of UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.S. President George W. Bush and criticised as being anti-American and insensitive in the wake of the September 11 terror attacks.
On Friday, the UK tabloid The Sun ran a front-page photo of Michael under the headline "Coward." An editorial added: "He's scared to release it in the States in case it offends those fans he still has left. What a cop-out."
Meanwhile Michael, 39, posted a message to the media on his Web site, www.g-michael.com, defending the content and locations of the release.
The track, which samples The Human League's "Love Action," is being released across Europe, Australia, Asia and South America but not in the United States.
"The record was never intended for American release for the precise reason that I felt it could be misread in this very way, and it makes me truly sad that this press statement has been necessary," Michael wrote.
The ex-Wham! star says the song and animated video -- which portrays Bush and Blair as gay lovers -- are not anti-American.
The video also shows Bush on the White House lawn petting a smiling poodle-shaped Blair and depicts the two leaders dancing the tango.
"The song and video in question ... is definitely not an attempt to express anti-American sentiment, nor an attempt to condone the actions of Al-Qaeda," Michael writes.
"I have lived with an American citizen for the past six years, and have had a home there for the past 10. And I would never knowingly disrespect the feelings of a nation, which has suffered so much loss, so recently, for any reason.
"'Shoot the Dog' is simply my attempt to contribute to the public debate that I feel should be taking place regarding Iraq and Saddam Hussein.
"I have tried to convey my message with humour, because the public is rightfully scared of these issues, and humour has often been a useful aide to political debate.
"And believe me, however irreverent I may be of Mr. Blair and Mr. Bush, my intentions are genuinely to do something, however small, to protect all of us, the people I love, and the people you love, from a disaster that we have the power to avoid.
"The record was never intended for American release, for the precise reason that I felt it could be misread in this very way, and it makes me truly sad that this press statement has been necessary.
"Once again, no offence to Americans was intended, but politicians are humans, not gods, and God knows there has never been a more important time to remember that than now."
The letter is signed, "Sincerely, George Michael."
The controversy started on Monday when the singer, whose hits include "Careless Whisper," "Faith," "Father Figure" and "Outside," told the UK tabloid The Mirror that the song was a risk for him.
"I know this is dangerous territory," he said. "I've never done anything so political before. I've spent years shouting my mouth off about serious issues over dinner tables but never really had the confidence to express my views in a song.
"But I really feel this is such a serious time for us all that being silent is not an option."
The following day the New York Post described the song as a "tawdry tune," described Michael as "washed up" and said the song could end his career.
On Wednesday, Michael told CNN the song was intended purely to spur public debate.
He said: "This was absolutely an attack on [British Prime Minister] Tony Blair, principally, and the perspective which is really predominant in Europe right now that he's not questioning enough of Mr. Bush's policies."
He said he began writing the song last September as a way to criticise Blair for not involving the British public in decisions regarding Iraq.
"It's anti-Mr. Blair and anti-Mr. Blair's reluctance to challenge Mr Bush. It's not anti-American in any sense," Michael stressed.
"Satire is used for political purposes all the time, but obviously there's a time and a place," he said.
"I think in the current climate, it can be very difficult to speak your mind, but sometimes, I believe, we're all in danger and I think this discussion needs to be widened."
George Michael defends political lampoon
July 5, 2002
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