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PEOPLE

Morgan Wallen

The Grand Ole Opry, a weekly concert regarded as the most prestigious show for country musicians, is under fire after a surprise appearance from controversial singer Morgan Wallen.

Wallen was barred from country music radio stations and removed from streaming platform playlists last February after he was heard calling one of his friends a racial slur in a clip shared by TMZ. He apologized on social media and later on “Good Morning America,” calling his words “unacceptable and inappropriate,” McClatchy News reported.

Though many said he was a victim of cancel culture, Wallen's “Dangerous: The Double Album” proved to be the most popular album of 2021, according to Billboard data.

His recent return to the spotlight has been met with mostly positive reactions, and he quickly sold out 48 of his 54 dates for “The Dangerous Tour,” which begins in February, according to Whiskey Riff.

Wallen surprised fans at the Opry on Saturday, Jan. 8, when he performed with featured artist Ernest, who was making his debut at the Opry.

Not everyone was on board with Wallen's cameo, including some people who reminded the Opry it denounced racism in a social media post in June 2020.

The previous day, the Opry made a post about Pride, who became the first Black solo singer to perform on the Opry stage on Jan. 7, 1967.

Neither Wallen nor the Opry have commented on the backlash from the singer's appearance.

On Sunday, Wallen congratulated his friend Ernest, whom he performed alongside at the Opry.

“I've been able (to) witness your talent for 'bout 7 years now, I'm really excited the world gets to witness the same thing soon,” Wallen said of the up-and-comer “Thanks for letting me be a part of it.”

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NEW YORK — Savannah Guthrie filmed the “Today” show remotely Monday after a positive COVID-19 test.

“We're trading places,” Guthrie, 50, said to co-host Hoda Kotb. “I'm working from home. You're back in the studio. You have a negative test for COVID. I just tested positive for COVID, so here we go.”

Guthrie's breakthrough case comes after Kotb's similar breakthrough case.

“I know that your negative test will come quickly but here's to happy healing,” Kotb, who tested positive on Thursday, but tested negative twice since then, replied.

Guthrie retweeted a video of her exchange with Kotb and declared she was “feeling fine” and would return to the studio soon.

On the air, Guthrie said her symptoms were mild (“Little sniffles, not much more than that”).

Guthrie is fully vaccinated, and boosted. She received her first vaccine dose for a segment on “Today” in 2021.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Former "American Idol" runner-up Clay Aiken announced Monday he's running for Congress again in North Carolina, this time seeking to succeed the retiring U.S. Rep. David Price.

In a video announcing his bid in the 6th District, Aiken said he's joining the already crowded field for the Democratic primary, which has been delayed from March to mid-May due to litigation.

Aiken, 43, has had a career in music, theater and reality shows — in addition to political and social activism — since finishing second to Ruben Studdard on the TV singing contest in 2003.

"Hey, folks. It's been awhile. Now, I know I look a little different these days, but we've met before," he says in the video.

Aiken won the Democratic nomination for a largely rural central congressional district in 2014, edging former state Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco. But he lost in the general election to then-Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers, receiving 41% of the vote.

From combined wire services