August 1989: "One in a Million" Shocks the World With Racist, Homophobic Slurs
Public figures from Tipper Gore to Boy George to Arsenio Hall lined up to condemn "One in a Million." Actually, just about everyone did but Sean Penn, who defended it. The lyrics of the "One in a Million" were undeniably nasty: On one verse Axl spits "get out my way" at at a group he calls "niggers"; another verse claims that "immigrants and faggots … come to our country" to "start some mini Iran/Or spread some fuckin' disease." On top of everything, Rose had a gift for explaining his most offensive moments in even more offensive ways. The N-word? "Why can black people go up to each other and say 'nigger,' but when a white guy does it, all of a sudden it's a big put-down?" The f-word? "I've had some very bad experiences with homosexuals. ... [But] I'm not against them doing what they do as long as they're not forcing it upon me." Or, as the non-apology apology on the cover of G N' R Lies put it: "This song is very simple and extremely generic or generalized, my apologies to those who may take offense."