Garth Brooks drew some criticism after his performance at the inauguration of President Biden and Vice President Harris on Wednesday (Jan. 20), after he was filmed hugging all of the former presidents and first ladies in attendance, maskless, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. But a rep for the singer says he had taken every precaution in advance of the event.
Brooks performed a stirring a cappella rendition of “Amazing Grace” after the incoming president and vice president were sworn into office during a ceremony at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. He offered handshakes to Biden, Harris and outgoing Vice President Mike Pence before heading to the exit, but he stopped short when he caught sight of the living ex-presidents and their wives onstage.
The country superstar darted into the crowd, quickly dispensing hugs to Barack and Michelle Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton and George W. and Laura Bush before just as quickly heading for the door again. Viewers noted that he was not wearing a mask at the time (Brooks was wearing a mask when he took the stage, which he removed before singing), but a representative tells Today that the singer had tested negative for COVID-19 for three days prior to his performance, including that very morning.
Brooks also faced criticism from a more conservative segment of his fanbase that saw his appearance at the event as politically charged, but he was very clear in his intentions both before and during his performance.
“This is not a political statement,” he said on Monday (Jan. 18), when announcing his performance. “This is a statement of unity.”
He emphasized that theme once again during his performance, pausing before the last verse to ask the crowd gathered in person and those watching remotely to sing the final verse of “Amazing Grace” with him “as one, united.”
WATCH: 5 Burning Questions About Garth Brooks’ Inauguration Performance
13 Singers Who Aren’t Afraid to Share Strong Social and Political Opinions: