- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 4, 2003

Dixie Chicks singer Natalie Maines hopes to cure her heartaches tonight before a national television audience. She’d like America to rethink a most untimely gaffe.Ten days before the U.S. military struck Iraq, the sassy lead singer of the Dallas-based country trio dropped a bomb of her own.”Just so you’ll know, we’re ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas,” she told a cheering London audience on March 10.The remark inspired hubbub. Fans responded with boos and boycotts, and in the minds of many Americans, Miss Maines became the poster girl for antiwar celebrities who felt they could oppose military action in Iraq but still be patriotic. Former admirers called her “Fat Nat,” and renamed the trio the “Ditsy Twits,” “Dixie Chickens” and “Dixie Blix,” after U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix.Is Miss Maines ashamed of her president? It is hard to tell.”No. I’m not truly embarrassed that you know President Bush is from my state, that’s not really what I care about. It was the wrong wording with genuine emotion and questions and concern behind it,” she tells Diane Sawyer on ABC’s “Primetime Special” at 10 p.m.The “candid and emotional” tell-all features girl talk amid cushy sofas.”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,” Miss Maines says.”But there are those who say to support them is to understand how much they believe in what they’re doing,” Miss Sawyer counters. “And it does matter to them that you believe in what they’re putting their lives on the line for.”Miss Maines responds: “As passionate as they are about their cause, I love that about them, but accept that I am passionate about mine as well.”The singer also says her remark about Mr. Bush was unwitting, “off-the-cuff” and made “out of frustration. At that moment, on the eve of war, I had a lot of questions that I felt were unanswered. … You know we didn’t walk off that stage going, ‘Oh my God, oh my God, I can’t believe I said that.’ “Miss Maines says she regrets her choice of words, but not her decision to speak out.”Or the nonchoice of words,” she says. “Am I sorry that I asked questions and that I don’t just follow? No.”She concludes, “Accept us. Accept an apology that was made. Accept that we — 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.”The Grammy-winning group has sold 25 million albums, performed the national anthem at this year’s Super Bowl and called their lives “blessed.” That disintegrated after Miss Maines’ comment, initially reported in the London Guardian, then blasted to the world by the Associated Press.Hubbub ensued for weeks. Louisiana fans ran over Dixie Chicks CDs with a tractor, 57 radio stations banned their music and the South Carolina state legislature passed a resolution demanding the group apologize before beginning its national tour in Greenville on May 1.But the group had high-profile defenders. Actor Tim Robbins, Oscar-winning director Michael Moore and others claimed Miss Maines’ right to free speech had been violated.”The Dixie Chicks have taken a big hit lately for exercising their basic right to express themselves,” said singer Bruce Springsteen in a statement yesterday. “They’re terrific American artists expressing American values by using their American right to free speech.”The anti-Chicks boycott is “un-American,” Mr. Springsteen said. “The pressure coming from the government and big business to enforce conformity of thought concerning the war and politics goes against everything that this country is about — namely freedom.”

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