Thursday, December 17, 2020 : By Nathan Skates
Grammy-winning artist Lauren Daigle has reportedly been pulled from performing on Dick Clark’s “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” broadcast after the mayor of New Orleans sent a letter asking for her removal. The letter claims that Daigle “harmed” the people of New Orleans and “risked the lives of our residents” by performing at a “Let Us Worship” event in the city’s French Quarter in November.
In a letter, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell demanded that Dick Clark Productions remove Daigle from its list of performers at the annual “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” celebration. Cantrell claimed that Daigle’s performance at an outdoor worship and prayer event in November harmed citizens and risked lives by placing a burden on first responders. Louisiana Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser voiced frustration with Cantrell’s letter and said she had harmed New Orleans by ruining the chance for “invaluable, worldwide promotion at a time when it’s needed most.”
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry also voiced support for Daigle, saying that he was “shocked and dismayed” at the mayor’s actions towards the Louisiana native.
Mayor Cantrell sent her letter to Amy Thurlow, president of Dick Clark Productions, sharing her great concern over Daigle’s reported involvement in the Dick Clark “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” celebration. “I cannot in good conscience support the involvement of singer Lauren Daigle, who just last month participated in an unpermitted live performance which placed my residents in danger and threatened the tremendous progress New Orleans has made in combating the COVID-19 pandemic,” the letter stated.
The letter charges that Daigle performed in an unpermitted event that “endangered lives.” Cantrell stated,
“Ms. Daigle cannot and should not be rewarded with national media and a public spotlight. She harmed our people, she risked the lives of our residents, and she strained our first responders in a way that is unconscionable — in the midst of a public health crisis. That is not who we are, and she cannot be allowed to represent New Orleans or the people she willfully endangered. I ask that you immediately remove Ms. Daigle from the lineup for New Year’s Eve. Our city is grateful to have your iconic production once again broadcasting live from our streets, but we cannot abide the participation of an entertainer who put our people in harm’s way.”
Daigle, who has been named the voice of the state’s new tourism marketing campaign, did meet with Cantrell recently to try to smooth things over, according to Beau Tidwell, communications director for the City of New Orleans. However, he explained, “the mayor’s concerns regarding Daigle’s actions in November remain the same.”
According to Daigle, the incident was a misunderstanding. She was riding her bike in the city and heard people praying and stopped to pray with them. She was then asked to sing a song and she agreed to the request, performing the hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” The performance was not planned, according to Lt. Gov. Nungesser, whose office had been in charge of negotiating Daigle’s appearance on the New Year’s Eve celebration. The main event is held in New York City, but Daigle’s performance was going to be broadcast from downtown New Orleans.
Nungesser cited Daigle’s extensive work in promoting Louisiana and claimed that Cantrell’s “personal feelings” regarding Daigle have harmed the state. He said that her letter led to “a decision by Dick Clark Productions to pull Lauren Daigle from the lineup and any celebration from Louisiana to be broadcast worldwide. To have invested so much into the promotion of our great state, along with promotion of the city of New Orleans, and see one of the biggest opportunities squandered over what can only be described as a retaliation is beyond belief.”
Gov. Landry wrote a letter to Daigle expressing support. In it, he claimed that Mayor Cantrell had not only targeted the singer “due to your recent expression of your faith” but had shown animus against the organizers of the “Let Us Worship” event, who the mayor claimed were operating “under the pretense of religion” to get around COVID restrictions.
According to Landry, the mayor officially sent the police to disperse the event and instructed city agencies “to pursue every angle possible to hold these individuals accountable.”
NBC’s New Orleans affiliate reported that the Louisiana portion of the “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” is “still on,” while NOLA.com claims that Daigle had not been officially confirmed as a performer at the celebration.
Cantrell’s reaction to Daigle’s impromptu performance at an outdoor worship event is over the top. As Gov. Landry noted, the mayor has allowed other protests and events to take place in New Orleans, most notably a series of Black Lives Matter and racial justice protests this past summer and a swinger’s convention called “Naughty Nawlins” in November, which has since been labeled a superspreader event after dozens of attendees tested positive for COVID-19. Still, Cantrell chose to publicly condemn Daigle and her decision to sing at a relatively small worship and prayer protest, which, according to Landry, has not been tied to a single COVID-19 case.
Cantrell’s plea was hyperbolic, responding as if Daigle had gone to the event and actually murdered someone. Whatever Cantrell’s motivation for removing the singer from a high-profile broadcast, it is clear she is no friend to Daigle. Her anger with the Grammy-winning artist could prevent future economic opportunities for the city. Nungesser accused Cantrell of retaliation, and that’s likely to be on point as so many politicians of late seem to react more emotionally to any perceived challenge to their authority than they do to the concerns and needs of their constituents.
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