Smash Mouth frontman Steve Harwell says ‘f**k that Covid s***’ as he performs to packed crowd in South Dakota
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US rock band Smash Mouth has prompted backlash after its lead singer was caught on camera saying “F*** that Covid s***” in front of a packed crowd.
Steve Harwell, 53, was performing with the group at the 80th annual motorbike rally held in Sturgis, South Dakota, when he made the comments during a rant about Covid-19, adding: “We’re all here together now.”
Footage shows the crowd – many of whom appeared not to be wearing masks – laughing and applauding in response to his remarks.
After the footage emerged, some fans criticised the band for headlining the event, when other planned acts – such as with Willie Nelson and Lynyrd Skynyrd – had pulled out due to the pandemic.
But the band’s manager Robert Hayes defended the appearance, telling Billboard that Smash Mouth is “taking this pandemic very seriously and has taken measures to keep our band, crew and fans as safe as possible during this time”.
He said: “They had a very strict social distancing and mask policy in place for all workers. Everything backstage was sanitised, etc.
“We spent endless hours advancing this event to make sure that it was pulled off as safely as possible and we are very happy with the outcome.”
The 10-day gathering reportedly attracts up to half a million people in normal circumstances, with around 250,000 still expected to attend this year despite the coronavirus outbreak sweeping the country.
Experts have told MailOnline the event has the capacity to become a “super-spreader” event in a state that has to date been spared the high death tolls and case numbers seen in other American states.
One Twitter user posted an image of the Sturgis rally with the comment: “Photo this weekend from Sturgis… I see dead people.”
Another wrote: “I’m less concerned for the bikers at Sturgis, than I am for the people, small towns they’ll stop at on their way back… The selfishness of people. Makes me feel physically ill.”
One doctor, a regular commentator on US cable news, wrote on Twitter: “Can you imagine if 250,000 people from Wuhan decided to visit South Dakota last February? People would have gone out of their minds. So people coming from places in the US that make Wuhan look like a blip on the radar…I’d be upset if I were from South Dakota.”
The event also came into criticism from outlets and politicians around the US, with CNN reporting that 60per cent of Sturgis residents said they did not want the event to go ahead as planned due to Covid.
But the state’s governor, Kristi Noem, defended holding the rally on Twitter, saying South Dakota has been “back to normal” for months.
One of those who attended the event, Stephen Sample, said it was a break from the routine of the last several months. The 66-year-old said: “I don’t want to die, but I don’t want to be cooped up all my life either.”
The Trump administration has been criticised for its handling of the pandemic. The US has topped 5million cases, and an outbreak is currently spreading fast across the country’s midwest.
Wearing a mask has become a political action in some states, with conservative-leaning states more likely to see anti-mask events and messaging.