Don't do me like that

Tom Petty tells George W. Bush to "back down" from using one of Petty's songs at his events.

By Jake Tapper
September 17, 2000 2:30AM (UTC)
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Add one more recording artist to the growing list of popular musicians who have asked the campaign of Texas Gov. George W. Bush to stop using their music on the stump: Tom Petty. By telling Bush to stop using his hit 1989 single "I Won't Back Down," Petty joins a "USA for Africa"-esque coterie that includes Sting and John Mellencamp telling the Texas governor to knock it off.

The song was once a fixture at Bush campaign events, until February, when -- at the behest of Petty -- Randall Wixen of Wixen Music Publishing Inc., wrote to Bush and told him to "immediately cease and desist all uses of the song in connection with your campaign."


Wixen told Salon that Petty's management called him and "told me in essence that Tom wasn't supporting George Bush's campaign, and that I should write the letter telling them to stop using the song."

Use of the song "creates, either intentionally or unintentionally, the impression that ... [the Bush] campaign have been endorsed by Tom Petty, which is not true."

In documents obtained by Salon, Bush for President general counsel Michael Toner wrote a letter on Feb. 11 "confirm[ing] that the Bush for President campaign will not use the ... song in connection with campaign activities in the future."


"So we backed down," joked Bush spokesman Dan Bartlett when told of the written exchange. Bartlett said that he was under the impression that the only song the campaign currently used was "We the People," written and performed by puffy rockabilly king Billy Ray Cyrus especially for the Bush campaign.

"We the people move it/We the people know/We the people/We run the country/We the people prove it/We're the heart and soul/We the people," the Cyrus song goes.

(OK, so it's no Top 40 hit. But at least Cyrus isn't going to tell Bush to stop using it.) "It's no mystery that most [entertainers] are hardcore partisan Democrats," explained Bartlett of Sting, Mellencamp and now Petty's anti-Bush moves. "And that's their personal choice."


The "cease and desist" letter to Bush was at least civil. At Thursday night's entertainment industry fundraiser for Vice President Al Gore and the Democratic National Committee, entertainers ranging from singer Stephen Stills to pretty-boy actor Matt Damon slammed the Texas governor, saying he was stupid, conservative and tongue-tied.

Bartlett said he was "surprised" at the Bush-bashing tenor of the evening. "It's unfortunate that Al Gore would surround himself with individuals who would use such a harsh and negative tone. There's a pattern there, he's known for these types of attacks. But this really isn't about what people around him said, it's more about how on one hand Al Gore will wag his finger at Hollywood, telling them to clean up their act, while he has the other hand in their back pockets to fund his campaign."

Jake Tapper

Jake Tapper is the senior White House correspondent for ABC News.

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