"There’s no excuse for those images," Combs told Maren Morris and panel moderator and NPR music critic Ann Powers, adding that over the years he has "learned a lot" and "immediately" disassociated himself with the imagery.
"It's not OK… And as I have grown in my time as an artist and as the world has changed drastically in the last five to seven years, I am now aware of how painful that image can be to someone else," Combs asserted. "I would never want to be associated with something that brings so much hurt to someone else."
"I want people to be welcomed by country music," he said, noting that at the time he wasn't aware of the "hurt" it inflicted on other. "I do apologize for that. I apologize for being associate with that…I am trying to learn. I am trying to get better."
"Just saying that things need to change, and taking a moment to be aware of that, and knowing that there are problems that exist is the biggest first step that I have taken," Combs expressed. "And I think the biggest first step that anyone out there who may be watching, that's in the industry, can take."
He also encouraged other people in the country music industry to have hard conversations about race and hate. Morris, as a Texas native, also admitted that she didn't fully understand the history and context of the Confederate flag until she was a teenager.
"It actually IS representative of our town because this isn’t his first 'scuffle' and he just demolished a huge streaming record last month regardless. We all know it wasn’t his first time using that word. We keep them rich and protected at all costs with no recourse," Morris tweeted at the time.
It actually IS representative of our town because this isn’t his first “scuffle” and he just demolished a huge streaming record last month regardless. We all know it wasn’t his first time using that word. We keep them rich and protected at all costs with no recourse.
During the Q&A, she touched on the backlash she received for calling out a fellow country star.
"This isn’t about going after people or a fan base for sport. That doesn’t give me pleasure. But I think [saying] ‘We’re different; we’re country; we protect our own; we don’t go after people in public’ … Well, I mean, going after someone saying the N-word is bad?" she said, via Variety. "That’s the least we can do is not say that. I think that your fans are a reflection of you and what you’re about. And you can’t control a human being, but you absolutely can let them know where you stand."
"And I appreciate Morgan saying ‘Quit defending me’ to his fans, because it’s indefensible," she added, touching on Wallen's recent video apology. "And he knows that; we know that… All we can do is, so there isn’t an elephant in the room, is say that out loud and hold our peers accountable."
See more other country music stars reacted to Wallen's controversy in the video below.