The first Republican presidential debate started on an odd note—literally—when the moderators played a song called “Rich Men North of Richmond” for the candidates. The singer and songwriter, Oliver Anthony, thinks it’s extra weird they used his song.
“I wrote that song about those people,” he said in a YouTube video posted Friday, referring to the candidates. “It’s aggravating seeing people on conservative news trying to identify with me like I’m one of them.”
He also addressed how many conservatives have embraced the song as a new right-wing protest anthem. “The one thing has bothered me is seeing people wrap politics up in this,” he said. “It’s aggravating to see certain musicians and politicians act like we’re buddies, like we’re fighting the same struggle here.”
As of Friday, “Rich Men North of Richmond” is number one on the Billboard Hot 100 music chart. The song decries the rich and powerful who exploit working classes.
Despite Anthony’s protests, the debate moderators, Fox News anchors Brett Baier and Martha MacCallum, told Politico Friday they got his permission to use the song.
The song also does have a vein of QAnon conspiracy theory running through it, as well as extremist political undertones. In “Rich Men North of Richmond” and in other songs of his, Anthony appears to embrace popular conservative talking points and conspiracies.
In one line of “Rich Men North of Richmond,” Anthony judges the grocery purchases of overweight “welfare queens.” He also makes references to human trafficking and people taking advantage of children, a clear reference to the QAnon conspiracy theory that Democrats and Hollywood elites run a global sex trafficking ring. And in another song, released Wednesday, Anthony says the U.S. is on the cusp of a new world war—something to which right-wing leaders have also alluded.