Eric Clapton accused Rolling Stone of running a “slur campaign” against him because of his controversial views on COVID-19 vaccination and lockdown mandates.

The guitarist spoke to prominent anti-vax advocate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for an interview featured on his website, the Defender. “Over the past year, there’s been a lot of disappearing, you know — little dust around with people moving away quite quickly,” Clapton said. “And it has, for me, refined the kind of friendships I have.” He added that the “mainstream media turning” on him has made the last few years especially difficult.

Clapton also praised Van Morrison, with whom he collaborated on the anti-lockdown song “Stand and Deliver” last November. “I had been inspired by Van because he came straight out and his reasoning was, ‘We have to make music for people,’” he said. “He’s a crusader, he sees it as his calling. And I thought, ‘That’s right, people are not really acquainted with the idea that this is as important in their healing as any kind of medicine. The whole community thing of people with being together with music.'”

Clapton’s vocal opposition to vaccine mandates has cost him several friendships, including bluesman Robert Cray, who canceled his plans to tour with Clapton after confronting him via email over the “Stand and Deliver” lyrics that compare vaccine mandates to slavery. Clapton and Morrison released another collaborative protest song titled “The Rebels” in June, and in August, Clapton put out a politically charged solo tune called “This Has Gotta Stop.”

The guitarist was recently the subject of a damning Rolling Stone exposé that revisited the racist onstage remarks he made in 1976 and detailed the extent of his anti-lockdown advocacy. Clapton seemed unbothered by the negative press.

“When I realized that there was a parting of the ways, it only made me determined,” he told Kennedy. “To come up to date with the new Rolling Stone kind of slur campaign, it becomes a compliment when it’s coming from certain areas of the media. It’s just an affirmation to me that I’ve been doing the right thing.”

Clapton, who recently completed a U.S. tour of primarily red-state venues that didn’t require proof of vaccination, said the criticism has only emboldened him in his beliefs. “It’s funny, because they can say stuff about me, but I actually haven’t felt physical opposition,” he said. “I’ve felt more support as a result of this than I ever did before about anything.”

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Eric Clapton had already carved out a respectable career for himself before he issued his first solo album.

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