Dixie Chicks Talk Candidly About Recent Controversy

“We support the troops l00 percent,” Natalie Maines says. “We have said that from day one. People have quoted we don’t support the troops, which is the opposite of anything we have ever said. There is not a correlation between not wanting a war and not supporting the troops who are doing their job.”

Maines makes the statement as she talks to ABC’s Diane Sawyer about the controversy that followed the Dixie Chicks ’ March 10 concert in London. Onstage, she told the British crowd that she was ashamed that President George W. Bush is from the Chicks’ home state of Texas. Sawyer’s hour-long interview with the trio — including sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Robison — airs Thursday (April 24) at 10 p.m. ET on ABC’s Primetime Thursday. On Wednesday (April 23), ABC released a partial transcript of the interview.

When asked why she made the comment about the president, Maines responds, “Out of frustration. At that moment, on the eve of war, I had a lot of questions that I felt were unanswered.” Acknowledging that the remainder of the concert was business as usual, Maines says, “You know, we didn’t walk off that stage going, ‘Oh my God, oh my God, I can’t believe I said that.’”

Maines adds, “I think it came down to … that it was in a foreign country and it was that it was … an off-the-cuff statement. … And I think the way I said it was disrespectful. The wording I used, the way I said it, that was disrespectful. … I feel regret for, you know, the choice of words. Or the non-choice of words. … Am I sorry that I asked questions and that I don’t just follow? No.”

In issuing a written apology for her comment, Maines found herself in a no-win situation. “The people who are on our side think I was pressured,” she explains. “They would like to believe that I was made to apologize. … They liked me until I apologized. (laughs) And then the people who didn’t like me thought that it was written by someone else and couldn’t give me credit for my own apology, and neither of those are true.”

Maguire noted that the public backlash extended to their families in Texas. “It was a lot on our shoulders, and a lot on her [Natalie’s] shoulders,” Maguire says. “They forget she’s a human being. … She was concerned for her grandmother in Lubbock, who’s catching [flack] from all her friends, and our grandfather is catching [flack] at the nursing home. … We are pretty tough and we have each other and we stand by each other through thick and thin and we know we’re going to make mistakes. But this was colossal. This felt so colossal.”

Regarding reaction from their fans, Robison says, “I think our fans, and I think people who know us, and even the people who don’t know us, know that we come from a real compassionate place.” Maguire adds, “Those are true fans. So I have to believe that they’re with us … in spirit and support, no matter what we do. We are bound to make mistakes. … We’re human beings. … Don’t put celebrities up on this pedestal. We are human beings.”

The Dixie Chicks will be taking additional security precautions when their Top of the World tour is launched on May 1 in Greenville, S.C. Robison says, “I think we’re dealing with bigger issues than record sales and lost things like that. … I’m concerned about my safety. I’m concerned about my safety for my family, for them.” Robison adds, “We just put in perspective as to what is really important. …You know, when you’re getting death threats …you know, at our concerts this year, we have to have metal detectors, and to me that’s just crazy. … But we have to take those precautions because this thing has gotten so out of control.”

When asked whether the Dixie Chicks seek forgiveness, Maines says, “Accept us. Accept an apology that was made. Accept that … what we’re saying right now is heartfelt, full of compassion and honesty, but to forgive us … don’t forgive us for who we are.”

Calvin Gilbert has served as CMT.com’s managing editor since 2002. His background includes stints at the Nashville Banner, Radio & Records and Westwood One.