The Sidebar: Megyn and ‘The Fifth Column’ React to Singer Jill Scott’s ‘Depraved’ Rendition of the National Anthem

Amy Harris/Invision/AP

Welcome to The Sidebar, where Megyn and her guests discuss a story she didn’t have time to cover on The Megyn Kelly Show or dives deeper into a topic exclusively for 

For our first edition of The Sidebar, the hosts of The Fifth Column – Kmele Foster, Michael C. Moynihan, and Matt Welch – stuck around to talk with Megyn about the controversial rendition of the National Anthem delivered by Grammy-winning songstress Jill Scott at the Essence Festival just days before the Fourth of July. 

Megyn and the guys reacted to Scott’s “depraved” performance and discussed why the lyric change was disingenuous coming from someone in her position.

‘The Home of the Slaves’

Scott was among the performers at the annual Essence Festival in New Orleans late last month. She was tapped to sing the “Star-Spangled Banner” and chose to get, well, creative with the lyrics. “She was feeling something special on the Fourth of July, and it was not love of country,” Megyn said. “To the contrary, it was hatred for the United States.”

After starting her performance with a traditional – albeit very drawn out – “Oh say can you see,” Scott took the National Anthem in an entirely different direction from there. She sang:

Oh say can you see by the blood in the streets / That this place doesn’t smile on you colored child / Whose blood built this land with sweat and their hands / But we’ll die in this place and your memory erased / Oh say, does this truth hold any weight / This is not the land of the free, but the home of the slaves!

Clearly in favor of the performance, Essence tweeted a video of Scott singing the revised tune with the caption, “Everyone please rise for the only National Anthem we will be recognizing from this day forward. Jill Scott, we thank you!”

“Lest you think this is just some fringe festival where America haters get together, no, the Vice President of the United States [Kamala Harris] would appear at the Essence Festival two days after this disgrace,” Megyn lamented. “Scott was featured and her hatred and endorsed even by the folks from Essence.” 

Despite rising to fame in America, Scott’s displeasure with the U.S. is nothing new. In an October 2021 interview with Jemele Hill on the Unbothered podcast, she said she had considered moving abroad due to a variety of perceived injustices. “There are some things you don’t have to deal with in other countries. We’re looking at Holland,” she said at the time. “The education is dope, the healthcare is dope. There’s very few confines on your personality. If you want to go get some a– or buy some a– ain’t nobody tripping on you… I like the idea of people being able to be free as long as you’re not harming anybody.”

An ‘Awful and Humiliating’ Performance

There is a lot to dissect when it comes to Scott’s chosen lyrics and the Essence Festival not just tolerating but promoting it. But at its core, the situation is disappointing. Foster, who said he’s been a “really big fan” of Scott for a “very long time,” did not mince words. “I’d actually been trying to avoid hearing that because it’s so awful and humiliating,” he said. “Hearing it, it’s even more depraved than I expected it to be.”

He took particular issue with the “that this place doesn’t smile on you colored child” line. “Aspiring to pollute the minds of children with that sort of kind of desperate paranoid belief about the country that they are reared in is monstrous,” Foster explained. “And it really is like one of the most diabolical aspects of the present moment in our country… where people are determined to reify race and place it at the center of everything.”

Contrary to what Essence would have you believe, Moynihan said the singer’s re-writing of the National Anthem is “not an act of bravery.” Scott is operating under “the assumption” that “I took this iconic thing in America, I flipped it around for you, and I’m really showing you the truth – I’m shining a spotlight on this,” he explained. In reality, “it is the most tedious, boring thing you can possibly do,” he added.

It’s also particularly disingenuous, he noted, coming from someone with Scott’s level of success. “The idiotic lyrics are something that I would expect from an undergraduate, somebody that is in a four year program where they’re being told every day that every one of their moves is the result of oppression,” he said. “This is someone who has succeeded beyond her wildest dreams in a country that afforded her that opportunity.”

A Necessary Palate Cleanser

If you need a dose of inspiration and patriotism after listening to Scott, both Foster and Megyn offered some “palate cleansers.” Foster said the best antidote to Scott’s rendition of the “Star-Spangled Banner” is the version performed by the late Marvin Gaye at the 1983 NBA All Star Game. “He didn’t bastardize it in a way that Jill Scott did, but he did invest it with something wonderful and remarkable,” Foster shared. “It is one of the most glorious renditions of the National Anthem you can actually hear.”

Megyn, meanwhile, said it was the ideal time to revisit the early days of The Megyn Kelly Show. In episode 25, which premiered in November 2020 as an audio-only podcast, Megyn welcomed Glenn Loury and Coleman Hughes to the program to discuss race and patriotism in America. “Glenn was on fire – I printed it out and I actually have had it on my wall for a long, long time,” Megyn concluded. “I encourage you to listen to it.”

You can check out Megyn’s full interview with The Fifth Column by tuning in to episode 585 on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen. And don’t forget that you can catch The Megyn Kelly Show live on SiriusXM’s Triumph (channel 111) weekdays from 12pm to 2pm ET.