The 28-year-old country singer spoke to GMA anchor Michael Strahan about the incident, in which he was caught on camera using the racial night following a night of partying.
Asked what led him to use the N-word, Wallen feigned ignorance: “It just happened. I was around some of my friends, and we just… we say dumb stuff together,” he explained. “And it was — in our minds, it’s playful. I don’t know, that sounds ignorant, but that’s really where it came from. And it’s wrong.”
Wallen was adamant that he didn’t use the slur frequently: “It was just around this certain group of friends, I would say…” He also swore that he didn’t mean it in a “derogatory manner.”
Strahan pushed back, noting that being drunk isn’t justification to use a racial epitaph. “What made you think the word was ever appropriate to use?” Strahan asked.
“I’m not sure. I was just ignorant about it,” Wallen responded.
Wallen also revealed that he checked himself in to rehab “to try to figure it out. Why am I acting this way? Do I have an alcohol problem? Do I have a deeper issue?” However, he did not say whether he determined the answers to those questions.
He also addressed the spike in his record sales in the aftermath of the incident, and said that he and his team donated $500,000 to Black organizations.
At the end of the interview, Strahan asked Wallen if there’s a “race problem in country music overall.” “It would seem that way,” Wallen answered, but added: “I haven’t really sat and thought about that.”
Watch the interview in full below.