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Bad blood: Newsom calls GOP conspiracies about Taylor Swift ‘sad and pathetic’

Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at a news conference.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, shown at a Jan. 10 news conference in Sacramento, voiced support for Taylor Swift in an MSNBC interview.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
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Gov. Gavin Newsom may have scored points with Swifties over the weekend when he called GOP criticism of Taylor Swift “sad and pathetic” during an MSNBC interview.

“They don’t want people to vote,” Newsom said to host Jonathan Capehart about the Republican Party. “They want to make it harder because they can’t win if you vote. How sad and pathetic the Republican Party have become that Taylor Swift literally is a threat to them for one reason: She wants folks to turn out and vote.”

Capehart had asked California’s governor for his thoughts about the “mania” and right-wing conspiracy theories about Swift and her Super Bowl-bound boyfriend, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.

Kelce, who has appeared in Pfizer advertisements encouraging Americans to get vaccinated for COVID-19, and Swift, who endorsed Joe Biden in 2020 and often encourages her fans to register to vote, have become the target of criticism from Donald Trump loyalists and the subject of a series of unproven and outlandish claims ahead of the presidential election.

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Among those claims swirling on social media, Trump supporters allege the National Football League is rigged and the Chiefs made it to the playoffs simply to give Swift a stage to endorse President Biden’s reelection campaign during halftime.

Fox News host Jesse Watters alleged last month that Swift is on top of the music world because “four years ago, the Pentagon Psychological Operations Unit floated” turning her into an “asset.”

He showed a video of a NATO meeting in which Swift was mentioned as an example of someone with an influential social media presence during a presentation about countering misinformation campaigns online.

A Pentagon spokesperson disregarded the claim as a “conspiracy theory” and referenced a 2014 Swift hit by saying they planned to “shake it off.”

In his segment, Watters said he had no evidence to prove Swift is “a front for a covert political agenda.”

“If we did, we’d share it,” Watters said. “But we’re curious because the pop star who endorsed Biden is urging millions of her followers to vote.”

Other right-wing media personalities on Fox and the One America News Network have proliferated Swift conspiracies and criticized her decisions to share her political views.

A Swift endorsement of Biden in the 2024 presidential race could be helpful for the president during the musician’s record-breaking Eras tour, which estimates suggest added more than $4 billion to the country’s gross domestic product. A survey conducted in March by the Morning Consult found that 53% of American adults are Swift fans.

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During the MSNBC segment, Capehart asked Newsom if he had any advice for the artist as she falls under the political spotlight.

“I’m not telling Taylor Swift anything,” Newsom said. “I’m in awe of her resiliency. She’s a remarkable person. Politicians should be learning about that example. I’m not worried about her capacity to weather these rather weak storm systems coming in from Jesse Watters and a few others.”

The deeper problem, Newsom joked, is that Kelce is on the wrong team because the Chiefs are playing against California’s San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl on Sunday in Las Vegas.

“When it comes to the 49ers beating Kansas City handily and righting the wrongs of a few years ago when we fell short in that second half in Miami, I’m looking forward,” said Newsom, a former San Francisco mayor. “But as I say, Travis and Taylor are resilient. They’ll both recover from their loss in the Super Bowl.”

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