Dixie Chicks are not exactly truthful

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on October 24, 2006

Today we have the first-ever guest post on Hoystory. The following is "the rest of the story" about the Dixie Chicks (cumulative IQ = -3) and their claim that the Red Cross refused their money because they're controversial, courtesy my brother-in-law, Ronnie Short.

I am bothered about a false statement the Dixie Chicks are making concerning the Red Cross. I'm a fan of the Dixie Chicks, but I am a bigger fan of the truth, and the Dixie Chicks have not been telling the truth about their supposedly declined offer of $1 million to the Red Cross. And what is even more disturbing to me, the media seems to be letting them get away with it. I can find very few sources on the internet that challenge the Dixie Chicks assertion. What follows is the story I've pieced together. I share it with you to find out if you and the blogosphere are aware of this story. Maybe I'm just doing a bad job of research and the story has already been thoroughly covered. But if it has not, I thought you might be interested in pursuing it for your blog.

A few months ago, I listened to the Chicks being interviewed by Terri Gross on the NPR show Fresh Air. During the interview, Natalie Maines, the lead singer of the Dixie Chicks, indignantly recounted the Red Cross's refusal of their money, implying that the Red Cross simply refused to take their no-strings-attached money because of the Chicks 2003 statement about George Bush. Well, this story had a powerful effect on me. It was great rhetoric. I immediately sympathized with Maines and marveled at the Red Cross's asinine behavior. But about a week after the initial airing of the interview, I happened to be listening to Fresh Air when the host read a brief statement from the Red Cross telling their version of the Dixie Chick story. In the statement, the Red Cross claimed the Dixie Chicks money had been offered with strings attached. I don't remember the exact wording of the statement, nor can I find the audio of it on the Internet, but the gist of it was that the Chicks wanted something from the Red Cross for their $1 million, namely for the Red Cross to attach their name to the Dixie Chicks summer tour.

I filed this information away in the back of my brain and did not think about it again until last night when I heard Natalie Maines make the same statement about the Red Cross. I was at the Landmark theater in Hillcrest, which is a theater dedicated to the showing of independent films. As one can imagine, the patrons of this establishment are overwhelmingly liberal and the previews were appropriately targeted. One of these previews was for a new documentary to be released at the end of this month. It is called, Shut Up and Sing. It is a documentary of the Dixie Chicks. In the trailer, there is a clip of Maines stating, with a horrified expression, that the Red Cross would not accept their money. It was a powerful clip. I could hear excited mumbling in the theater. But I was mumbling under my breath was for a different reason. I knew the statement was not true, or at least it was completely one-sided.

Intrigued, I woke up this morning and proceeded to check my facts about this story. I wanted to hear the exact words of the Red Cross statement as it was presented on the radio. But when I went to the NPR archives, I found that the audio for the Dixie Chicks segment had been removed with the following explanation: the audio for this segment is not available due to rights issues. So, pressing on, I googled Dixie Chicks Red Cross. Of all the return hits, only one source correctly reported the Red Cross's side of the story. Another mentioned the Red Cross, but cut up the Red Cross's statement so that its meaning was twisted, and the rest of the hits were for fan sites and bloggers who failed to even mention that the Red Cross had a version of the incident.

Here is part of the report from the one person who got the story right, Mario Tarradell in the Dallas Morning News:

The fallout from Natalie Maines' now infamous remarks in 2003 bashing George Bush is well documented: radio boycott, CDs publicly destroyed, a sharp decline in sales, death threats, and ridicule from the country music industry.

The Dixie Chicks vs. the Red Cross

Natalie Maines : "Politics got in the way of people having food and clothing and homes. That is what hurt and angered me, not country radio."

The Red Cross: "(We) may not take sides in hostilities or engage at any time in controversies of a political, racial, religious or ideological nature."

But what bothers Ms. Maines the most, she says, is that the American Red Cross refused a $1 million donation from the Dixie Chicks in 2003.
"It has nothing to do with being taken off of the radio," says Ms. Maines, 31, by phone from New York . "It has to do with the absurdity of death threats and the absurdity of being so awful that people won't even touch you. That the Red Cross won't take a million-dollar check from you. How can the Red Cross turn away a million dollars for charity?"

But it's not as simple as that, responds national Red Cross spokesperson Julie Thurmond Whitmer in a prepared statement.

The band would have made the donation "only if the American Red Cross would embrace the band's summer tour," writes Ms. Whitmer, referring to the group's 2003 U.S. tour after the London incident.

"The Dixie Chicks controversy made it impossible for the American Red Cross to associate itself with the band because such association would have violated two of the founding principles of the organization: impartiality and neutrality...

"Should the Dixie Chicks like to make an unconditional financial donation to the American Red Cross, we will gladly accept it."

Now look how Howard Cohen of the Miami Herald manipulated the Red Cross statement:

Even the nonpartisan American Red Cross wouldn't take their money. Red Cross spokeswoman Julie Whitmer says the organization declined the Chicks' donation three years ago because ''the controversy made it impossible to associate with the Dixie Chicks'' and would have ''violated'' the Red Cross' policy of ''impartiality'' and "neutrality.''

This version of the Red Cross story leaves the reader believing that the Red Cross would not take money from the Dixie Chicks because of the controversy surrounding them. There is no mention of the fact that the Chicks wanted to use their association with the Red Cross to enhance their image and sell tickets.

This makes me sick.

Cohen obviously spun the story to serve his agenda.

Cohen changed the meaning of the Red Cross's statement by cutting and pasting it to fit his agenda, which is deplorable, but at least he mentioned in his story that the Red Cross had a statement about the affair. No other site that I can locate even mentions that the Red Cross commented on Maines' statement.

Now, this is understandable because all the other people talking about the story are tendentious amateur bloggers and fans of the Dixie Chicks. I don't expect fans and non-reporters to fact-check every statement made by Natalie Maines or to seek out the Red Cross's side of the story. But what about those who claim to be journalists? I've always believed they checked out what people said to see if it was true, or at least presented both sides of the story. But why has the mainstream media simply let this slide?

The Dixie Chicks have been spreading their version of the story everywhere they can, and with the release of their documentary, this story will gain even more momentum. Won't someone in the media call them on this? Won't someone stand up and say it isn't true. I thought that was the job of the media.

Hoystory responds: Yes, the media should be standing up and correcting the record. However, it really shouldn't be a surprise that the story is treated this way. These aren't metro reporters interviewing Maines, these are features/celebrity reporters. They aren't so interested in the facts as they are in how Maines' and her cohort "feel."

Another part of this is the fact that most of the media is sympathetic to Maines' political leanings and are just less skeptical of anything she says. You can bet that if Mel Gibson had made similar claims, the majority of the reporting would've been more along the lines of the first article you reference, rather than the second.

You take a swipe at "tendentious amateur bloggers" -- the ranks of which you have just joined (sorry) -- but you've got the blogosphere and professional journalists backwards. Journalists typically work on tight deadlines and too often the reporting is he said/she said. They're limited by time and space. It shouldn't be that way, but it is. It's amateur bloggers -- in their role of watchdogs of the watchdog -- who typically take the time to use the Internet to fact-check journalists, are not limited by the newspaper's "news hole" or the TV broadcast's "air time." Journalists are key in covering events and doing first-draft-of-history reporting, but bloggers often add depth and context to that reporting that journalists can't or won't.

It's what you've capably done here.

0 comments on “Dixie Chicks are not exactly truthful”

  1. Thanks for the interesting report.

    Sounds like a classic case of “He Said” – “She Said.” Whose version should be believed? I guess it goes to what is meant by “embrace the band’s summer tour.”

    That we don’t get the full story it’s not surprising given the big businesses involved – entertainment, news, and charity. While I don’t doubt that the Chicks had their own spin-machine working on this story, the Red Cross has itself not been entirely free of controversy in the past.

    But maybe I just want to believe the best about the Chicks to fell better about paying $120 per ticket for their Brisbane show!

    Good muckraking…

  2. This certainly puts a different slant on things but I still, I must say, think it quite precious of the Red Cross to not accept such a substantial amount from a rock group who happens to have a brain and a point of view. I would have prefered there to be no strings attached to the donation but many philanthropists like to advertise their charitable works, does that make the money any less needed? I wonder if they would not accept money from Democratic stalwarts like Susan Sarandon and Alec Baldwin or, on the flip side, stars associated at times with the Republican party?

    I think it comes down to this. Would the countless lives that could have been helped with the injection of that money have thought twice about quenching their thirst or receiving vital medical aid because the donation came from a person who didn't like George Bush? I think, like always, common sense should have prevailed.

    Great to hear both sides of the story though.

  3. Hi did anyone ever bother to take a moment and wonder why the Dixie Chicks might want the Red Cross to be a part of their tour? Surely they did not want a sponcer... that would mean the Red Cross would be paying them. So what else could it possibly mean... ticket sales? I hardly think so seeing as how those tickets were sold out for months. Hmmm maybe the thought of getting the word out and information to people who may have never thought of giving blood. And that is the reason the clip was taken off the original website. Because of the fact that strings being attached was a spin-off of blame. The red cross was not going to be involved in anything. "Impartiality" and "neutrality" to what? There was no war between the Dixie Chicks and the President. Give me a break... that money could have gone to goo and also had a lot MORE good come from it if the Red Cross would have joined their tour. She said one thing... and people acted like it was ongoing and they couldn't get involved. Involved in what? It was already over, she said what she said... and APPOLOGIZED.

  4. Yeah, I think the Red Cross should have taken the money. Not doing is saying for 1, that the red cross does not want free promotion, and 2, that they are hypocrites. The red cross will take money from the government, and they are "Western Terrorist" I wonder if they would take free airtime to ad for red cross provided by some "Media whore" Of course they would, but I bet you wont find any ads provided by red cross that were aired on non government controlled media, like that of those in poor countries, where the poor are oppresses by the oil exploiting rich. It is fact that the CIA does terrorist work to prevent the spread of free economical systems. Not to say the soldiers fighting are the bad guys, they are just trained to well to follow orders and not to listen to that inner voice that tells them what they are fighting for is to destroy the emerging democracies to better exploit the natural resource of these poor nations.

    I am happy just knowing that the governmetn is on the way out. They will prolly take me out with them lol, but I am not afraid like they are. They know they are going to hell, and cant stand the idea of it so they clicg on to what ever little dignity they can steal from others. Take their guns away and you have a good government truly run by the people, because the people can stand up united as one without the fear of being killed by the police and military.
    But unfortunalty NWO is here and not one man could have stopped the inevitable.
    ps.. saying peace means that I am a terrorist. I love all mankind, and I guess that means I have to die by the hands of the dictators of the new world.

  5. That's an odd statement from the Red Cross. First, what the heck does 'embrace' mean? Is it something along these lines?

    I wish they'd have spelled it out...

    It's also weird that they explicitly say 'The Dixie Chicks controversy made it impossible for the American Red Cross to associate itself with the band...' before telling us that their decision was really based on their 'founding principles' of 'impartiality and neutrality'.

    Clearly the Red Cross is not saying that their "founding principles" prevent them from taking promotional money (because they clearly do, click the links above). So they must be saying that consider themselves impartial and neutral for not taking money when it might also bring the wrath of an emerging noise machine.

    Too bad, it's a lousy precedent for a great organization. Today, folks are going way beyond saying they're "not proud" of our President. Is the Red Cross going to turn down money from all of these people? Or only if they think it'll make them look bad?


I'm half-way through this opening statement by @mtaibbi and already I want to stand and applaud.


This complaint was resolved (not really!) in mere hours!

Seriously, this is crazy, @factchecknet. Your transparency on this craziness is long overdue. @baybarsorsek @Ferdi_Ozsoy


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