Toby Keith’s rep, Elaine Schock, spoke out about the world’s perception of the country singer after his death at the age of 62 on Monday, February 5.

“Toby was kind. I think he was misunderstood because he was painted a certain way, but that was an incorrect portrait,” Elaine said in a statement on Tuesday, February 6. “He was so much more. He was certainly one of the most courageous men I knew.”

Elaine, who said she “loved Toby,” believed that Toby was “misunderstood.” While she didn’t state a specific reason as to why the public might believe that, Elaine may have been referring to the backlash Toby received from his song “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue.” The single was released in 2002 and focused on the anger of many people in the United States after the September 11 attacks.

“You’ll be sorry that you messed with the U.S. of A / ‘Cause we’ll put a boot in your ass, it’s the American way,” Toby belts out on the track.

The provocative lyrics led to cancellations of Toby’s shows, including the 4th of July ABC special in 2002.

The Chicks (formerly known as The Dixie Chicks) singer Natalie Maines was one of the more vocal celebrities about the tune.

“I hate it,” Natalie 49, said in an interview with the Los Angeles Daily News in 2002. “It makes country music sound ignorant. It targets an entire culture — and not just the bad people who did bad things. You’ve got to have some tact. Anybody can write, ‘We’ll put a boot in your ass.’ But a lot of people agree with it.”

Toby Keith wears a black jacket, white button down and cowboy hat.
Terry Wyatt / Getty Images

However, Toby felt differently and even justified his use of the lyric “foot in your ass” during an interview with Time in 2004.

“I wrote it so that I had something to play for our fighting men and women,” Toby told Time. “But once people said I should release it, I knew there was going to be trouble. I’m comfortable being extreme, but saying ‘boot in your ass’ is so extreme. Of course, if you say, ‘foot in your butt,’ you got no song.”

In 2021, Toby reflected on the song again during an interview with Fox Nation.

“I knew it would be polarizing,” he told Fox. “I knew it would be a lightning rod. And I prayed about it. But at the end of the day, it was a battle cry for our guys to go win and get back home safely and go do what Americans really do.”

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