The ACLU is clapping back at Taylor Swift’s attorney after they came for writer Meghan Herning for comparing the singer to Hitler.
In a PopFront article titled “Swiftly to the alt-right: Taylor subtly gets the lower case kkk in formation“—which examines everything from Kanye West’s infamous 2009 VMA speech interruption to the early 20th century eugenics movement—Herning explores the idea that white supremacy has aligned itself with Swift, particularly in the wake of “Look What You Made Me Do.”
“The day the song came out,” Herning writes, “Breitbart jumped on the lyrics on Twitter: ‘I rose up from the dead, I do it all the time,’ a line that they interpreted as racism and racial hatred rising from the dead.”
Herning later goes on to highlight the alt-right’s embracing of the song as a “re-awakening” within the Trump era. “At one point in the accompanying music video, Taylor lords over an army of models from a podium, akin to what Hitler had in Nazis Germany.”
And y’all know Princess Petty couldn’t have that.
A copy of a letter addressed to Herning, which was obtained by the ACLU, appears to find attorney William J. Briggs II demanding the article be “retracted and removed” or else “Ms. Swift” will “proceed with litigation.”
He then goes on to call the story defamatory and “replete with demonstrable and offensive falsehoods which bear no relation to reality or the truth about Ms. Swift.”
“It appears to be a malicious attack against Ms. Swift that goes to great lengths to portray Ms. Swift as some sort of white supremacist figurehead,” Briggs continues, calling the piece “a baseless fiction masquerading as fact and completely misrepresents Ms. Swift.”
But the ACLU penned a response to Briggs on Herning’s behalf, and is pulling out all the receipts. In a letter dated November 6, the organization states that Herning “will not in any way accede” to attempts “to suppress their constitutionally protected speech,” especially since Herning’s story was political commentary framed within relevant current events.
“[Herning’s story] discusses current politics in this country, the recent rise of white supremacy, and the fact that some white supremacists have apparently embraced Ms. Swift, along with a critical interpretation of some of Ms. Swift’s music, lyrics, and videos,” the organization argues.
And opinion does not equal defamation by definition. As the ACLU notes, Swift is subject to commentary as a public figure, and as long as writers and journalists aren’t publishing false information, they’re armed with protections that allow them to express themselves freely.
In the clincher, the ACLU chews up a couple Swift references and cleverly spits them back at her and her legal team.
“Criticism is never pleasant, but a celebrity has to shake it off, even if the critique may damage her reputation.”
As NPR notes, outlets such as Complex and Broadly have published articles similar to PopFront‘s. Both have yet to respond to NPR‘s requests asking if the sites have received similar letters from Swift’s attorneys.