NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley did more than poke fun at the Country Music Association’s ill-received media guidelines that aimed to keep politics out of Wednesday’s CMA Awards. The veteran hosts dug straight in with barbs aimed at key political figures from both parties, including President Donald Trump.
Underwood said producers required this year’s show to be a “politics-free zone.”
“Clearly we can’t say or play anything,” she said.
Paisley, strapped with his guitar, playfully asked if that meant he’d be barred from performing such songs as “Hold Me Closer, Bernie Sanders” and “Stand By Your Manafort.”
He suggested other titles that incorporated the names of Anthony Scaramucci and Hillary Clinton.
Underwood and Paisley then proceeded with a parody of her 2005 hit “Before He Cheats,” reconfigured to address the commander in chief. They sang about a gold-plated White House toilet seat, leading into a chorus of “Maybe next time he’ll think before he tweets.”
Paisley continued the gag later in the show, mentioning a song called “I’m So Indicted” and a medley of tunes by “Huey Lewis and the Fake News.”
The Country Music Association initially asked reporters covering the show to refrain from asking musicians about politics or recent shootings. Artists and journalists balked and the restrictions were lifted.
Presenters and winners also used their time onstage to talk about unity, if not politics. Presenter Tyler Perry received a standing ovation when he said, “It has never been more important that we all right now come together and find some common ground.”
Karen Fairchild of Little Big Town, which was named vocal group of the year, said the CMA Awards should be about harmony.
“It should be about what we can do together to change things,” she said. “Kindness is an attractive quality. We actually could change the way things are going, we just have to step out and be together.”