Northern California

ACLU Criticizes Taylor Swift for Legal Threats Against Bay Area Blogger

The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California is getting involved in a dispute between a Bay Area blogger and Taylor Swift.

On Monday, the ACLU sent Swift and her lawyers a letter saying the singer had raised “meritless legal defamation threats” against a blogger who called on Swift to denounce white supremacy.

It all started in early September when Bay Area blogger, Meghan Hernings, posted an article on PopFront titled “Swiftly to the Alt-Right: Taylor subtly gets the lower case kkk in formation,” stating that Swift’s lyrics could give support to white nationalists.

In the post, Herning dissects the lyrics of Swift’s song, ‘Look What You Made Me Do,’ and compares the imagery in the singer’s music videos to that of Hitler’s. Herning continues on to criticize the singer for staying silent during the 2016 election and asks Swift to clarify her stance on white supremacy.

“My interpretation of the song was that the lyrics ‘I don’t like your kingdom keys, they once belonged to me’ have similar tones to the Charlottesville chants of ‘You will not replace us.’

The post quickly attracted the attention of Swift’s attorney, William J. Briggs II, of Venable LLP, who on Oct. 25, 2017, sent Herning a cease and desist letter, calling the post a malicious attack on the pop star and demanding the article be removed.

“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.”

Herning described the letter to be ‘threatening and aggressive,’ so she decided to seek the help of the ACLU. Lawyers with the civil rights organization determined her writing was opinion-based and protected by the First Amendment, according to a press release.

Although the letter was sent on Oct. 25, 2017, the letter demands Herning’s retraction be printed by Oct. 24, 2017. It also demanded that PopFront ‘remove the story from all media sources’ and ‘cease and desist’ from the disseminating the post, adding that the letter itself was confidential and that publishing the letter in part or full would be a violation of the Copyright Act.

Representatives for Taylor Swift have declined to comment.

The ACLU is insisting that the post is not defamation and has requested Swift and her attorney respond by Nov. 13 to confirm they will not pursue legal actions.

“The press should not be bullied by high-paid lawyers or frightened into submission by legal jargon,” Herning said in the ACLU’s press release. “These scare tactics may have worked for Taylor in the past, but I am not backing down.”

NBC News contributed to this report. 

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