Pentagon to MAGA world: You need to calm down over Taylor Swift – POLITICO

Defense
“The absurdity of it all boggles the mind,” said one senior administration official.
National security officials are baffled by the hysteria over Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and pop star Taylor Swift. They add that she's not, in fact, part of a psychological operation to sway voters to Joe Biden. | Julio Cortez/AP
By Lara Seligman

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National security officials are used to shaking off absurd conspiracy theories, but the latest rumor that’s gripped MAGA world just hits different.
The claims by Fox News and far-right influencers that pop star Taylor Swift is part of a Pentagon “psychological operation” to get President Joe Biden reelected, and somehow rig the Super Bowl to benefit Kansas City Chiefs tight end (and Swift’s boyfriend) Travis Kelce, has been met with forehead slaps in the national security world.
“The absurdity of it all boggles the mind,” said one senior administration official, granted anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly on the matter. “It feels like one of those ‘tell me you are a MAGA conspiracy theorist, without telling me you are a MAGA conspiracy theorist’ memes.”
Let’s go back to December: A wild theory gained traction on far-right corners of social media after Swift was named Time magazine’s person of year on Dec. 6. Last month, Fox News host Jesse Watters did a segment about the idea, playing a clip from a NATO conference that he said backed up the theory that Swift was part of a Pentagon “psy-op,” or psychological operation, for combating online information.
“It’s real. The Pentagon psy-op unit pitched NATO on turning Taylor Swift into an asset for combating misinformation online,” Watters said.
The Pentagon responded at the time, but the rumors continued to proliferate on social media. Influential MAGA types are now promoting the dizzying notion that Swift’s relationship with Kelce — another right-wing anti-hero after appearing in an ad for pharmaceutical giant Pfizer promoting the Covid and flu vaccines — is part of a plot by the NFL and Democratic Party for Swift to endorse Biden at the Super Bowl.
Faced with an onslaught of journalist questions about the theory, spokesperson Sabrina Singh was ready for it.
In the name of being honest, Singh vehemently denied Swift is part of a DOD operation.
“We know all too well the dangers of conspiracy theories, so to set the record straight — Taylor Swift is not part of a DOD psychological operation. Period,” Singh told POLITICO.
“We know all too well the dangers of conspiracy theories, so to set the record straight — Taylor Swift is not part of a DOD psychological operation. Period.”
Sabrina Singh, Pentagon spokesperson
Singh used the opportunity to urge Congress to pass a long-awaited Pentagon budget and the $111 billion emergency supplemental request. And she wasn’t done with the references.
“I’m sure she has other chief priorities, as do we, which is why we continue to urge Congress to complete the passage of a budget and our supplemental request so we can move the ball down field and across the goal line in support of critical national security priorities,” Singh said.
Another U.S. official called the theory “laughable” — indeed, could not stop laughing throughout the conversation — adding that “I really can’t believe this is a thing.”
“Is this Team Trump’s new Comet Ping-Pong pizzagate?” the first official said.
Some officials understandably believe the phenomenon is not worth a second thought.
“I mean, I love Taylor Swift, of course, but I haven’t spent more than two minutes thinking about this,” said a senior DOD official.
In October, the hysteria over the Swift-Kelce relationship even made it to the White House. Joking with reporters during a press conference, White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said to her colleague John Kirby, a retired Navy rear admiral: “We weren’t sure if you knew who Taylor Swift was.”
“I know who Taylor Swift is,” said Kirby, a spokesperson for the National Security Council. “Apparently she’s dating a football player.”
Asked by reporters whether the president believes her relationship with Kelce is real, Kirby said: “In the vernacular of the National Security Council, I can neither confirm or deny those reports.”
This isn’t the first time the Pentagon has been swept up in MAGA controversy; in fact, DOD has in recent years become a punching bag for the far-right.
Conservative lawmakers have repeatedly accused top officials, including in public hearings, of prioritizing diversity and inclusion policies over preparing the military for war, which those officials deny. And Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) held up hundreds of senior military promotions for almost a year over his objection to the Pentagon’s policy of paying for service members to travel to get abortions and other reproductive care.
Pentagon leaders have even directly responded to Fox News personalities, hitting back on comments about female troops made by Tucker Carlson, and cheering his subsequent firing by the network.
The perceived politicization of the military is not without cost. Pentagon leaders have struggled in recent years to meet recruiting goals, a phenomenon that officials say is mainly due to a booming commercial economy but coincides with a trend of Americans losing confidence in the armed forces. A recent Rand report said the public’s “esteem is wavering, influenced by such factors as the end of the war in Afghanistan, the increased polarization of the public, and heightened politicization of the military.”
But asked whether the latest MAGA targeting of the Pentagon could further hurt recruitment, a second U.S. official demurred.
“If only DOD could be so lucky as to have Taylor Swift helping with recruiting,” the official said.
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