JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (WFLA) – Country singer Luke Bryan received backlash from fans after he invited Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on stage during his concert in Jacksonville over the weekend.
Fans and others were quick to criticize the American Idol judge after Gov. DeSantis tweeted out photos of the two captioned “Thanks for letting me crash the party last night, @lukebryan!”
Bryan brought out DeSantis during Friday night’s performance for his Raised Up Right Tour. Footage from the concert showed DeSantis tossing swag out to the crowd and giving a high five to Bryan, who pats him on the back.
During the concert, Bryan told the crowd “we’re gonna have some fun and we’re gonna raise some money tonight for the great state of Florida.”
Bryan, who grew up about 177 miles away from Jacksonville in Leesburg, Georgia, released a statement on Sunday, defending bringing the controversial governor on stage. He said he did it to raise money for those who suffered from Hurricane Ian last month.
“I typically don’t respond to stuff when I’m getting run down on a social platform but here’s the deal,” he said in a statement posted to Twitter. “I understand Governor DeSantis is a very polarizing figure. But I grew up in a country where if a governor asks 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. 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,” the statement continued. “Raise awareness, have a little fun between the GA and FL college fans before the game and do what I love on stage.”
Many fans, especially those in the LGBTQ+ community, still asked if it was impossible to support hurricane disaster victims while also supporting the community.
DeSantis was behind Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, which prohibits bars instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through the third grade. He signed the highly controversial legislation into law back in March.
Bryan closed his statement by saying “This is all I am saying about this. I’ll be outdoors with my boys. Enjoy your Sunday. Love y’all #GoDawgs. Text: disaster to 20222 to support.”