2019 American Music Awards

Lynyrd Skynyrd Pushes Back Over 'Free Bird' Use in Violent Video Aired at Trump Gathering

A graphic, violent parody video depicting Pres. Trump shooting, stabbing and assaulting a church full of his media and political rivals has drawn fire from one of the musical acts whose music soundtracks the clip. The video was reportedly shown during a pro-Trump political conference at the president's Trump National Doral Miami golf club in Florida last week. 

A spokesperson for Lynyrd Skynyrd confirmed in a statement to Billboard that the group had not authorized the use of their signature song "Freebird" in the nearly four-minute video that appears to use doctored footage from 2014's Kingsman: The Secret Service in order to depict Trump murdering reporters and anchors from CNN, MSNBC, NPR, Buzzfeed, PBS, Politico and many other media organzations using a handgun and a knife inside the so-called "Church of Fake News." The mock rampage also shows Trump attacking, striking and killing such political rivals as former Pres. Barack Obama, former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton, late Sen. John McCain, Sen. Bernie Sanders and a member of Black Lives Matter. The video ends with a smiling Trump putting the head of a CNN reporter on a stake.

"The use of Lynyrd Skynyrd's 'Freebird' in the video as depicted was unauthorized," read the statement from the band. The clip ends with a snippet of DJ Khaled's 2010 hit "All I Do Is Win"; at press time a spokesperson for Khaled had not returned requests for comment. The New York Times broke the story of the video, which it reported was shown at the three-day event last week attended by Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr., as well as former spokewoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. The gathering took place less than an hour away from the site of the Feb. 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where a lone shooter murdered 17 people.

The president's spokesperson confirmed on Monday (Oct. 14) that the video -- which features the logo for Trump's 2020 re-election campaign -- was played at the gathering and that Trump "has not yet seen the video, he will see it shortly, but based upon everything he has heard, he strongly condemns this video." (Billboard is not re-posting the video due to its graphic nature.)

At press time, Trump had posted more than a dozen tweets on Monday morning, none of which addressed the video the president of the White House Correspondents' Assocation said all Americans should "condemn... this depiction of violence directed towards journalists and the President's political opponents. We have previously told the President his rhetoric could incite violence. Now we call on him and everybody associated with this conference to denounce this video and affirm that violence has no place in our society." 

An organizer of the Doral event told the Times that the clip was played at the conference as part of a "meme exhibit," claiming his organziation denounced the video and was investigating how it was screened at the gathering. As noted by the Times, the clip is similar to one that Trump himself tweeted out in July 2017 in which a professional wrestler with his face imposed over theirs is shown body slamming and beating up the CNN logo.

Late Sen. McCain's wife, Cindy McCain, seconded the WHCA's tweet, adding that the images, "violate every norm our society expects from its leaders& the institutions that bare their names."

According to ABC News, there have been 21 mass shootings so far this year with a total of 124 killed. A Texas man opened fire during church services at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, in Nov. 2017, killing 25 people in the worst mass shooting at a house of worship in U.S. history.

Trump has made the mainstream media a frequent target of his attacks since he took office, often referring to  them as "enemy of the people." Executives at the Times and other media organizations have frequently cautioned Trump against using violent langauge toward journalists, fearing that overzealous followers may act on his words. Last year, 56-year-old Cesar Sayoc was charged with sending suspicious packages with inoperative pipe bombs to some of Trump's political rivals -- several of whom were depicted in the Doral video -- as well as to CNN; Sayoc was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

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