The ACLU of Northern California is pushing back after singer Taylor Swift and her attorney spewed “meritless legal defamation threats” against a local blogger who published a story linking the “Bad Blood” songstress to the alt-right movement.
On Monday, Nov. 6, the civil rights organization penned a stern letter to Swift’s legal team stating its full intent to defend writer Meghan Herning and slammed the singer’s attorneys for trying to suppress the blogger’s free speech rights. The memo was written in response to a letter from Swift’s legal team to Herning on Oct. 25, demanding that she remove and retract a blog post from September titled, “Swiftly to the Alt-Right: Taylor Subtly Gets the Lowercase kkk in Formation.”
The post first appeared on PopFront, an online magazine created to “discuss critical social, cultural, and political issues,” according to the blogsite.
“Ms. Herning and PopFront will not in any way accede to your attempt to suppress their constitutionally protected speech,” the ACLU said in its letter. “The blog post is a mix of core political speech and critical commentary; it discusses … the recent rise of white supremacy and the fact that some white supremacists have apparently embraced Ms. Swift.”
In her post, Herning argues that the singer has become a “pop icon” for neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other fringe extremist groups, dissects the lyrics of her smash hit “Look What You Made Me Do,” compares images of Swift from the music video to those of Hitler in Nazi Germany, blasts the singer’s silence in the contentious 2016 election and demands that she openly denounce white supremacy.
That’s when the blogger received a cease and desist order from Swift’s camp calling her post “false and defamatory” and demanding that it be retracted — or else they would sue. The order also informed Herning she was legally obligated to keep the dispute hush-hush, claiming a copyright law forbade her from making their correspondence public.
“The notion that Ms. Swift supports white supremacy is utterly fabricated and a reprehensible falsehood, and it attempts to portray Ms. Swift in a false light,” the letter states. “Let this letter stand as a yet another unequivocal denouncement by Ms. Swift of white supremacy and the alt-right.”
The ACLU balked at the threats, however, arguing in its retort that Herning’s post was opinion-based and therefore, protected under the First Amendment. ACLU of Northern California attorney Matt Cagle called the “intimidation tactics” used by Swift’s lawyer “unacceptable.”
“Not in her wildest dreams can Ms. Swift use copyright law to suppress this exposure of a threat to constitutionally protected speech,” Cagle said in a statement.
Herning, who contacted the ACLU after receiving the letter from Swift’s legal team, argued that members of the press shouldn’t be “bullied” by lawyers or spooked into submission by legal jargon. She stressed that while “these scare tactics may have worked for Taylor in the past, … I am not backing down.”
According to a press release, the ACLU has since requested a response from Swift and her attorney by Nov. 13 confirming that they won’t move forward with a lawsuit.