Toby Keith's Politics Weren't as Clear-Cut as You Might Think


Feb. 6 2024, Updated 11:51 a.m. ET

Toby Keith performs onstage during the 2021 iHeartCountry Festival Presented By Capital One at The Frank Erwin Center on October 30, 2021 in Austin, Texas. Editorial Use Only. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for iHeartMedia)
Source: Getty Images

In the early part of this century, country musician Toby Keith — who sadly passed away at age 62 on Feb. 5, 2024, following a battle with stomach cancer — was outspoken about his political views. His most famous political moment likely came with the song "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue," a song written in response to the terrorist attacks on 9/11. But, in general, Toby's politics weren't as clear-cut as you might assume.

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What were Toby Keith's political views?

Although he was a registered Democrat in 2008, Toby was best known politically for his support for the George W. Bush administration. In 2004, Toby described himself as "a conservative Democrat who is sometimes embarrassed for his party." That same year, he supported George Bush's reelection campaign, but when he was asked about his support for the Iraq War in 2007, he said that he had "never" supported it.

toby keith performs in blue flannel shirt, with american flags behind him
Source: Getty Images
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In 2008, Toby was interested in both Barack Obama and John McCain, but he eventually announced that he had left the Democratic Party and reregistered as an independent. "My party that I've been affiliated with all these years doesn't stand for anything that I stand for anymore," he said. "They've lost any sensibility that they had, and they've allowed all the kooks in. So I'm going independent."

Did Toby Keith support Donald Trump?

Although many artists came out in opposition to Trump, Toby was one of the few musicians who was willing to perform at his inauguration in 2017. After he performed, Toby said he got a number of messages from fellow artists who were jealous that Toby had performed and they hadn't. “I’m not naming names, but there’s a bunch of people that . . . were committed, and they backed out due to pressure,” Toby said.

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Toby said that it had never occurred to him to consider canceling on Trump and pointed out that he had performed at events for both George Bush and Barack Obama. For Toby, the event was more about honoring America than any particular president. It was also a move that he believed would go over well with his fans. 

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"If you don’t succumb to that kind of pressure, you’ll always come out stronger. Your fans will love you more, your friends will love you more, your peers will respect you more,” Toby said. “At the end of the day, you just get another notch on your gun belt.”

Toby received a National Medal of the Arts from President Trump.

Just a week after President Trump played a role in inciting a mob to take over the Capitol for hours, news broke in January 2021 that Toby Keith and Ricky Skaggs had been awarded National Medals of the Arts by the president. The ceremony was reportedly held in private, and Toby did not make any public statements about the award.

According to the National Endowment for the Arts website, the medal is presented to artists who "are deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support and availability of the arts in the United States." Toby received the award on Jan. 13, the same day President Trump became the first president to be impeached twice. 

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