Toby Keith and Chicago’s suburbs are a time-tested recipe for controversy. Two years ago, the country star’s licensed bar closed after an eviction in Rosemont. Now, Keith—one of President Trump’s more-ardent celebrity supporters—is back in the local food scene spotlight. He’s the headliner for this summer’s Naperville Ribfest, and many, even in conservative-leaning DuPage County, were worried that the annual summer festival would turn into a platform for politics rather than pork.
Fans left since-deleted Facebook comments arguing about Keith’s participation. Some threatened to boycott the event. Others praised Ribfest officials for having the “courage” to book Keith. A rumor quickly spread that officials were debating cancelling Keith’s concert. It was suburban summer festival turmoil at its finest. Conservative news outlets began spinning the story nationally. Even former White House press secretary for President George W. Bush, Ari Fleischer, chimed in with his opinion, painting his own narrative.
This ticks me off. Conservatives put up w liberal clap-trap from Hollywood & Broadway. Now one patriotic country singer is subject to this?— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) February 10, 2017
Not to be outdone, former Obama senior advisor David Axelrod also shared his views. Surprisingly, the liberal agreed with Fleischer.
Blackballing performers who played at a presidential Inauguration? Not right. https://t.co/TXQFQa5hxg— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) February 13, 2017
The Naperville Exchange Club organizes the event and took to Facebook to confirm Keith would be playing and that they never considering cancelling the event. They also had to warn Facebookers to stray from political attacks: ”Name calling (AND THIS INCLUDES SNOWFLAKE!) isn't acceptable.”
According to the Naperville Sun, tickets for this year’s fest are selling faster than ever before. VIP tickets are already sold out, festival officials told the newspaper. Keith is slated to perform on Ribfest’s first day, June 30. Ribfest is one of the largest summer festivals in Illinois, a multi-day fest that takes place each year over Independence Day and one that lures competitive barbecuers from all over the country.
Even though Axelrod and Fleischer were against cancelling Keith’s appearance, political observers and Ribfest fans calmly articulated in this Daily Herald story why Keith’s appearance was problematic and why organizers are tone deaf in this political climate for booking him.