Why is Hank Williams Jr. upping his anti-Obama rhetoric?

Last October, country singer Hank Williams Jr. made a comparison between President Obama and Hitler. Last week, at the Iowa State Fair, he reportedly said that the president is Muslim.

Wade Payne/AP/File
This May 2011 file photo shows singer Hank Williams Jr. performing in Nashville, Tennessee.

Country singer Hank Williams Jr. increased the volume on his anti-Obama rhetoric last week, telling a crowd at the Iowa State Fair, “We’ve got a Muslim president who hates farming, hates the military, hates the US, and we hate him!” according to an account of the concert in The Des Moines Register.

Mr. Williams’s political views have landed him in trouble before, in case you’ve forgotten: Last October, he compared President Obama playing golf with House Speaker John Boehner to Hitler hitting the links with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. After this, ESPN pulled his “All My Rowdy Friends” from its intro to "Monday Night Football," thus at a stroke depriving Williams of one of the most lucrative residual/promotional positions available on national TV.

Given the loss he’s already incurred, why more inflammatory words?

Well, we don’t know what Williams believes in his heart. But it’s worth remembering that a substantial number of Americans still hold to the incorrect view that Mr. Obama is a Muslim. In that sense, Williams is speaking to a constituency.

A July Pew Research Center poll of registered voters found that 17 percent of respondents say that the US president is Muslim. Forty-nine percent correctly identified Obama as Christian, while 31 percent said they did not know his religion.

Interestingly, the percentage of voters who think Obama is Muslim has actually increased a bit since 2008. That rise is particularly pronounced among self-identified conservative Republicans. Four years ago, 16 percent of GOP conservatives identified Obama as Muslim. Today, 34 percent do, according to Pew.

Seen in that context, Williams is speaking for a constituency that is substantial and growing.

Plus, at this point Williams’s rants might be good for business. He has a new album out, “Old School, New Rules,” which is highly anti-Obama. It contains such lyrics as, “Hey Barack, pack your bags, head to Chicago, take your teleprompter with you so you’ll know where to go.”

“More than half the songs ... are raging political commentaries,” wrote Rolling Stone’s Patrick Doyle in July.

Williams himself says ESPN did him a favor by dropping his song, as it pushed supporters to rally to his side. He told Mr. Doyle that the controversy sold $200,000 worth of T-shirts in cities such as Evansville, Ind.

Fans “have made me feel real special," Williams told Rolling Stone. "I’ve never had so many e-mails and letters. That’s what makes those songs easier to write.”

Not all his fans feel that way. Longtime Washington budget guru Stan Collender tweeted on Sunday, “Delete any Hank Williams Jr. song on your iPad.”

“This is nothing but pure hatred and racism and has no place in the US,” wrote Mr. Collender.

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