Taylor Swift dove headfirst into politics at the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards Sunday, using her appearance to publicly denounce anti-LGBTQ discrimination.
Just how the White House interpreted her remarks, however, is a different story.
The pop superstar opened the 36th annual ceremony with a medley of her pride-themed anthem, “You Need To Calm Down,” and the title track from her new album, “Lover.”
The performance recreated the look of the “You Need To Calm Down” music video, featuring appearances by Swift’s longtime pal Todrick Hall and a bevy of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” stars. That video, released in honor of Pride Month in June, concluded with a note from Swift asking U.S. fans to sign a petition supporting a comprehensive anti-discrimination bill known as the Equality Act.
Later in Monday’s ceremony, Swift repeated that plea when accepting her award for Video of The Year for “You Need To Calm Down,” which she co-directed with Drew Kirsch.
CONGRATS @taylorswift13 on her SECOND time winning VIDEO OF THE YEAR #VMAs pic.twitter.com/l8TOibbTTr
— Video Music Awards (@vmas) August 27, 2019
“You voting for this video means that you want a world where we’re all treated equally under the law, regardless of who we love, regardless of how we identify,” she said. Cheekily glancing at her watch, she added, “It now has half a million signatures, which is five times the amount that it would need to warrant a response from the White House.”
The Equality Act passed the Democrat-controlled House in May. It faces tougher odds, however, in the Republican-controlled Senate, where it has yet to be brought up for a vote.
By Tuesday afternoon, the Trump administration issued a response to Swift’s plea ― sort of.
“The Trump administration absolutely opposes discrimination of any kind and supports the equal treatment of all,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere told CNN when asked about the singer’s remarks. “However, the House-passed bill in its current form is filled with poison pills that threaten to undermine parental and conscience rights.”
Swift has been particularly vocal about politics in the lead-up to “Lover,” which was released last week. During the 2016 presidential election, she faced criticism for staying silent even as stars like Beyoncé and Katy Perry publicly rallied on behalf of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
“Unfortunately in the 2016 election you had a political opponent who was weaponizing the idea of the celebrity endorsement,” she told Vogue earlier this month of her previous reluctance to speak out. “He was going around saying, I’m a man of the people. I’m for you. I care about you. I just knew I wasn’t going to help.”
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