By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated April 23, 2003 01:00 PM
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Looks like Bruce Springsteen is no Vince Gill, who backtracked after he came out in support of Dixie Chicks singer Natalie Maines and her right to criticize President Bush.

The Boss, 53, has issued a statement supporting the Texas trio, saying he’s troubled by the backlash and radio boycott that followed Maines’s remarks that she was embarrassed Bush was also from Texas.

“The Dixie Chicks have taken a big hit lately for exercising their basic right to express themselves. To me, they’re terrific American artists expressing American values by using their American right to free speech,” reads a statement on Springsteen’s Web site, according to Launch.com.

“For them to be banished wholesale from radio stations, and even entire radio networks, for speaking out is un-American.”

Springsteen blames the pressure being brought to bear against the Chicks on “the government and big business,” which are trying “to enforce conformity of thought concerning the war and politics.”

The Boss says this “goes against everything that this country is about — namely freedom. Right now, we are supposedly fighting to create free speech in Iraq, at the same time that some are trying to intimidate and punish people for using that same freedom here at home.”

In conclusion, he concedes, “I don’t know what happens next, but I do want to add my voice to those who think that the Dixie Chicks are getting a raw deal, and an un-American one to boot. I send them my support.”

As Launch.com notes, Springsteen is no stranger to anti-war sentiments. At some concerts this year he has played the late Motown singer Edwin Starr’s protest hit “War” and has also spoken out on stage to bemoan the loss of civil liberties.