Luke Bryan responded to a wave of criticism he’s received for warmly welcoming Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to his stage Friday night (Oct. 28).
The country star and American Idol judge brought out DeSantis in front of a Jacksonville, Fla., crowd, on a stop on his Raised Up Right Tour. In footage from the concert, DeSantis is seen tossing swag out to audience members and giving a high five to Bryan, who pats him on the back.
“We’re gonna have some fun and we’re gonna raise some money tonight for the great state of Florida,” Bryan announced at the show.
DeSantis shared a pair of photos on Twitter of the two appearing to have a good time on stage together. He wrote, “Thanks for letting me crash the party last night, @lukebryan!”
Bryan released a statement on Sunday defending his decision to have DeSantis join him at the show. He noted that “this felt right” as part of an effort to help raise awareness and money for people impacted by Hurricane Ian in Florida. The singer had postponed a set of Florida tour dates in September due to the hurricane.
“I typically don’t respond to stuff when I’m getting run down on a social platform but here’s the deal. I understand Governor Desantis is a very polarizing figure,” Bryan wrote on social media Sunday afternoon (Oct. 30). “But I grew up in a country where if a governor ask you if they can come and raise awareness to help victims of a natural disaster you help.”
“I’ve generally stayed out of politics throughout my career,” said Bryan. “I knew people would chatter about this but for me the more important piece was if I am going to come back there a few weeks after a large portion of people have been affected by a natural disaster in a state where people have been good to me this felt right. Raise awareness, have a little fun between the GA and FL college fans before the game and do what I love on stage.”
He closed the note by writing, “This is all I am saying about this. I’ll be outdoors with my boys. Enjoy your Sunday.”
“Your greeting of DeSantis on stage certainly appeared to be more than wanting to help Hurricane victims. It looked like a full endorsement of DeSantis – DeSantis is worse than polarizing,” one person commented on Bryan’s post. It was one of the top comments of more than 13,000, a significant uptick from the usual amount of comments seen on the singer’s tweets.
“So, it’s impossible to support victims of a hurricane while also supporting the LGBTQ community?” another asked. DeSantis was behind Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, which prohibits instruction in Florida schools on sexual orientation or gender identity from kindergarten through grade three, or in any grade “in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”
“You can raise awareness (and money) with your own name,” noted another Twitter user. “Having Desantis on stage with you have the impression (true or not) that you supported him. In this day and age, we all have to be willing to speak out against lies, hate and injustice.”
Below, see a video clip of the moment Bryan welcomed DeSantis to the stage, followed by Bryan’s statement.