Pop Culture

How Country Wives Found Themselves in Hot Water Over the Capitol Siege

For people who haven’t been keeping tabs on the wives of country stars, it might have been surprising to learn last week that a few of them have become music’s most obvious vectors for viral right-wing misinformation. In the days after violence unfolded at the Capitol building last Wednesday, Brittany Aldean, a former NBA cheerleader and the wife of Jason Aldean, and Brittney Kelley, who is married to Brian Kelley of Florida Georgia Line, both faced criticism after posts that seemed to support the rioters—including from some Nashville superstars.

As American politics have become more contentious, mainstream country stars have shied away from the overt political statements that reigned in the Bush era, choosing to focus instead on messages of unity. Among male stars, social media tends to function primarily as a means of promotion for concerts and new music. But plenty of country wives use social media more avidly, their feeds full of children’s photos and life updates, and the most popular among them, like Kelley and Aldean, have turned their connection to the industry into careers as influencers. In that way, they are simply some of the most visible nodes of a much broader network that has spread conspiracies like QAnon, coronavirus skepticism, and vaccine fears across women-focused social media communities.

Even while on vacation in the Dominican Republic, sharing beachside family photos with her 1.8 million Instagram followers, Brittany Aldean seemed to be just as glued to the news of the Capitol riots as the rest of us. On Wednesday, according to Rolling Stone, she posted an Instagram story repeating a debunked claim that the rioters who stormed the Capitol were actually representatives of “Philly antifa,” and soon Instagram removed it.

That same day, Aldean complained about the supposed censorship. “Instagram wanted me to know that it was against their guidelines to post,” she said in a video, per Rolling Stone. “It’s getting so ridiculous the filters you put on everyone that’s against your narrative. It’s unbelievable and it’s ridiculous. It’s just really sad what this world’s coming to.”

Aldean has been one of country music’s most outspoken supporters of Donald Trump, complaining that her support has led to backlash. Soon after the election, she discussed potential election fraud and, according to Rolling Stone, asked, “Same people counting the Corona cases aren’t counting the mail-in ballots, are they? What a damn shame.” Her husband, who has been less explicit in his political comments, also posted a meme questioning Joe Biden’s eventual win. But as the election-fraud claims turned to something increasingly dangerous, she inadvertently illustrated the real challenge for conservative celebrities in the Trump era. When conspiracy theories abound and sharing your opinions can become support for shocking political violence in a few hours, using your public platform too openly can be risky.

Kelley, who reportedly amplified the baseless Wayfair child-trafficking conspiracy theory, at first posted a message that seemed to be in support of the rally taking place on Wednesday, an image of herself waving an American flag in a convertible truck with her husband. According to People, her caption initially praised “patriots,” but as the mob turned violent, she adjusted the message to focus on unity. After complaints arose in the comments section, she defended herself by decrying cancel culture. 

“I know all of my real folks here know where my heart is at and I appreciate the support,” she wrote, per People. “And I SEE YOU in the DMs, so many of you, scared to even speak out to say, ‘you’re praying’ or state your opinions for fear of being ‘canceled.’ I was taught to stand for what you believe is right. Holding the American flag and calling on God for peace is not a way of expressing what ‘side’ I’m on.” She ended the day by posting a twinkling image of the Capitol building with a Gandhi quote as a caption.

Meanwhile some of the biggest country stars working are increasingly open about their progressive politics, and their dismay at the Trump supporters in their midst. In her own tweet, Grammy winner Maren Morris referenced the posts she saw from an unnamed group of wives who complained about Black Lives Matter protesters last summer. She wrote, “How do some singer’s wives conveniently not know the difference between marching for racial injustice and Nazis breaching our Capitol because their guy didn’t win?”

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