ESPN pulls Williams from MNF opening

Updated: October 4, 2011, 10:32 AM ET
ESPN.com

The Hank Williams Jr. song that has opened "Monday Night Football" for 20 years was not part of the opening of this week's Indianapolis-Tampa Bay game after Williams made controversial comments about President Barack Obama.

Williams compared Obama to Adolf Hitler on Fox News Channel's "Fox and Friends" show Monday morning.

ESPN, in a statement, said: "While Hank Williams, Jr. is not an ESPN employee, we recognize that he is closely linked to our company through the open to Monday Night Football. We are extremely disappointed with his comments, and as a result we have decided to pull the open from tonight's telecast."

Williams issued a statement through his publicist, saying: "Some of us have strong opinions and are often misunderstood. My analogy was extreme -- but it was to make a point. I was simply trying to explain how stupid it seemed to me -- how ludicrous that pairing was. They're polar opposites and it made no sense. They don't see eye-to-eye and never will. I have always respected the office of the president."

Williams, whose song "All My Rowdy Friends" has been the "Monday Night Football" theme on both ABC and ESPN since 1991, said on "Fox and Friends" that he thought House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner playing golf with President Obama "would be like Hitler playing golf with (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu ... In the shape this country is in?"

Told by anchor Brian Kilmeade that he didn't understand the analogy, Williams said: "I'm glad you don't, brother, because a lot of people do. They're the enemy."

Asked who the enemy was, Williams said: "Obama. And Biden. Are you kidding? The Three Stooges."

Boehner played golf with Obama in June at the height of the national budget debate in Washington, D.C.

Williams, from Tennessee, has said he would run as a Republican for the U.S. Senate in 2012.

Later in the Fox interview with Williams, anchor Gretchen Carlson told Williams he used the name of one of history's most hated men to describe the president.

"Well, that's true. But I'm telling you like it is," Williams said.

Williams has been critical of Obama in the past. He campaigned for Sen. John McCain and running mate Sarah Palin in 2008, even changing the words of one of his songs, "Family Tradition," to blast Obama and the Democrats for the financial crisis the country was facing prior to that year's election.