The Country Music Association had earlier warned journalists covering its annual gala in Nashville not to focus on politics, although it quickly revised its guidelines after a backlash.
Opening the nationally televised show, co-host Carrie Underwood teasingly said that the 2017 awards were a “politics-free zone.”
She and co-host Brad Paisley promptly went into a rendition of Underwood’s song of jealousy “Because He Cheats,” turning it into “Because He Tweets” with an eye on the social media-loving president.
Paisley joked that Trump was sitting on a “gold-plated White House toilet seat” tweeting about football players, political rivals and “covfefe,” Trump’s infamous typo that became a neologism of sorts for his rhetorical style.
“It’s fun to watch it / That’s for sure / Until ‘Little Rocket Man’ starts a nuclear war / And then maybe next time he’ll think before he tweets,” Paisley sang, using Trump’s insult for North Korean strongman Kim Jong-Un.
Yet the barbs on Trump were more light-hearted than biting, a contrast to major events in the pop music and film worlds in which the president has become a loathed figure.
Country traditionally has been the favorite music of conservative white Americans and the Country Music Association had especially urged journalists not to ask about gun control in the wake of the latest mass shootings.
The awards gala switched to a reverential tone to pay tribute to the 58 people killed on October 1 when a local man opened fire on a Las Vegas country music festival from his hotel in the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history.
Underwood, surrounded by candles and her eyes moistening, sang the American gospel hymn “Softly and Tenderly” as a screen flashed portraits of victims of the massacre, as well as country music stars who died in the past year.
The Country Music Association Awards, one of two major prizes in the industry, for the second straight year gave its top prize of Entertainer of the Year to 55-year-old mega-star Garth Brooks.
Taylor Swift, a country prodigy turned pop sensation whose latest album comes out Friday, won Song of the Year for “Better Man,” which she wrote for the group Little Big Town.
Album of the Year went to “From a Room: Volume 1” by Chris Stapleton, a veteran country songwriter turned performer who also won the prize two years ago for his debut.