NEW YORK – Fans of country singer Toby Keith are about to give Peter Jennings the boot.
Actually, make that boots — hundreds of pairs of them are scheduled to be shipped from about a half-dozen country radio stations next week to Jennings' office at ABC News headquarters here in New York.
The Send Your Old Boots to Peter Jennings Campaign began after Keith blamed the anchorman for getting him booted off of ABC's July Fourth TV special because he planned to sing his new song about Sept. 11, "Courtesy of the Red, White & Blue (The Angry American)".
Keith was allegedly dropped earlier this month because producers of the special didn't think the song was upbeat enough to open their show. Among the song's lyrics are: "You'll be sorry that you messed with the U.S. of A. 'cause we'll put a boot in your ass — it's the American way."
It was that lyric that inspired the boot campaign, which was the brainchild of a radio personality named Crash, who co-hosts a morning show on country station KTST-FM ("The Twister") in Oklahoma City.
The station — which isn't far from Keith's hometown of Moore, Okla. — has collected nearly 300 pairs of boots so far, plus two prosthetic legs, Crash told The Post yesterday.
And UPS in Oklahoma City has volunteered to ship the foot wear for free this Friday for delivery as early as next Tuesday.
Crash says word of the boot campaign has spread through the country music grapevine to stations in San Antonio, Dallas, Wichita, Kansas City and other cities. The grand total of boots headed to Jennings' office could not be determined yesterday, but clearly, country music fans are up in arms.
In addition to the boot campaign, country radio disc jockeys have collected thousands of signatures on petitions to reinstate Keith on the ABC lineup. And they've been giving out Jennings' e-mail address on the air and on the Internet, resulting in thousands of e-mails to the Canadian-born newsman.
"What Peter Jennings did to Toby Keith was a form of censorship," Crash says.
The incident has also given a boost to the banned song, which is rapidly climbing the charts.
ABC News denies that Jennings took part in the banning of Keith's song. A spokeswoman for Jennings labeled the boot campaign a "publicity stunt," and added, "Knowing Peter Jennings, when the boots arrive, they will be given to the homeless."
About a week after Keith was dropped from the ABC show, country superstar Charlie Daniels pulled out of a PBS July Fourth special because producers of that show wouldn't allow him to sing his own new song about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.