Country star Toby Keith has hit back at those criticizing him for performing at the inauguration ceremony of President-elect Donald Trump, saying he "won't apologize" for performing for the country and its military.
The 55-year-old "American Soldiers" singer came under fire on Friday after it was announced that he, along along with rock band 3 Doors Down and country singer Lee Greenwood. However, in a statement to Entertainment Weekly, Keith made it clear he wasn't going to back down.
"I don't apologize for performing for our country or military," said Keith, a registered Independent. "I performed at events for previous presidents [George W.] Bush and [Barack] Obama and over 200 shows in Iraq and Afghanistan for the USO."
Keith's statement comes as several artists, including Bruno Mars, Katy Perry, Celine Dion, Justin TImberlake, Elton John and Garth Brooks, have publicly rejected invitations to perform at the inauguration. Members of the rock ‘n' roll band Kiss also declined to participate due to previous obligations, but frontman Gene Simmons dismissed the controversy surrounding the event, stating, "I think people should get over it and move on. He's our president and that's it, end of story."
Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli was apparently considering an appearance after being personally approached by Trump, but after he started taking "too much heat" from fans on social media, complete with the #BoycottBocelli hashtag, he decided to back out, according to reports.
Over the weekend, singer Jennifer Holliday - who had been announced as an inauguration performer on Friday along with Keith - backed out of the event amid a slew of backlash.
"I was honestly just thinking that I wanted my voice to be a healing and unifying force for hope through music to help our deeply polarized country," Holliday wrote in an open letter provided to The Wrap. "Regretfully, I did not take into consideration that my performing for the concert would actually instead be taken as a political act against my own personal beliefs and be mistaken for support of Donald Trump and Mike Pence."
"I sincerely apologize for my lapse of judgment, for being uneducated on the issues that affect every American at this crucial time in history and for causing such dismay and heartbreak for my fans," she added.
Meanwhile, Keith, 3 Doors Down and several other artists will perform January 19 at the pre-inauguration "Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration." Performers for Inauguration Day include the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the Radio City Rockettes and teenage classical singer Jackie Evancho, who will sing the National Anthem.