How Taylor Swift became the latest target of right-wing conspiracy theorists – PBS NewsHour



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On Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs upset the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship Game, but some of the attention was focused on one person in the stands, singer Taylor Swift. As Laura Barrón-López reports, major right-wing conspiracies are now revolving around the music icon and her football star boyfriend.
Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.
Geoff Bennett:
On Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs upset the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship Game. But some of the attention was focused on one person in the stands. That’s singer Taylor Swift.
And, as Laura Barron-Lopez reports, major right-wing conspiracies are now revolving around the music icon and her football star boyfriend.
Laura Barron-Lopez:
From country sweetheart to pop icon and billionaire megastar.
Alison Steinberg, One America News Network:
We all know Taylor Swift openly perpetuates all the mainstream liberal talking points.
Laura Barron-Lopez:
Now the center of a right-wing conspiracy theory.
Jack Posobiec, Conservative Activist:
They’re gearing up for an operation to use Taylor Swift in the election.
Jesse Watters, FOX News Anchor:
Now the women who run the Biden campaign want to set the big guy up. The most unpopular president of all time wants to have a relationship with Taylor Swift.
Arian Foster, Former NFL Player:
That’s what practice was about. It was about practicing the script.
Laura Barron-Lopez:
A year ago, a conspiracy took off when a former Texans running back joked that the NFL was scripted.
Then, on Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs upset the Baltimore Ravens, fueling lies that the NFL changed the script to capitalize on these two, Taylor Swift and her boyfriend, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.
Alison Steinberg:
It’s a coordinated marketing campaign by Democrats to leverage celebrities to excite their base into coming out and voting.
Laura Barron-Lopez:
And, more recently, a new element was added to the conspiracy theory. Right-wing news pundits are now calling the Swift-Kelce spectacle a psychological operation staged by Democrats to give Biden a big boost in his reelection bid.
Joan Donovan, Boston University:
We live in a world that is animated by chaos for the most part and conspiracy theories help explain that chaos.
Laura Barron-Lopez:
Researcher Joan Donovan has been studying online disinformation for years. She says conservatives are using this conspiracy to critique Biden, stay relevant and animate their followers.
Joan Donovan:
But, over on the right-wing, I think what they’re anticipating on X and — is really that Taylor Swift, who had endorsed Joe Biden in 2020, is likely to continue to endorse him.
I think deeper, in a historical sense, the conspiracy theories about the NFL are also very pertinent amongst the right-wing because of all of the history that has gone on with Black Lives Matter and Colin Kaepernick. So it is a definite draw for this audience to critique the NFL and what they represent in terms of U.S. culture.
Laura Barron-Lopez:
And conservative figures like former presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy chimed in, tweeting: “I wonder who’s going to win the Super Bowl. And I wonder if there’s a major presidential endorsement coming from an artificially culturally propped up couple this fall.”
Donovan says over time, conspiracy theories feed on each other.
Joan Donovan:
Once you search for that kind of conspiracy on a place like YouTube, the recommendation algorithms are going to keep rewarding and reinforcing that behavior. So it actually becomes very hard to leave a conspiracy theory behind because of the way social media is ordered.
Unfortunately, what it does to our mainstream media ecosystem is, it forces you to respond as a journalist, because so many people are talking about it. But I do think there’s room for social media companies to look more closely at their algorithms and see what it is that they’re reinforcing, so that fringe conversations don’t become fodder for mainstream news.
Laura Barron-Lopez:
She says facts related to big cultural or political events, like the Biden campaign hoping for another Swift endorsement, and the Swift-Kelce relationship being worth millions in brand value for the NFL can quickly shift into full-blown conspiracy theories.
At any rate, fans still hope to see Swift in the stands on Super Bowl Sunday.
For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Laura Barron-Lopez.
Geoff Bennett:
And, today, a Pentagon spokesperson, when asked, denied that Taylor Swift was part of a Department of Defense psychological operation to get President Biden reelected.
One senior administration official telling Politico — quote — “The absurdity of it all boggles the mind.”
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Laura Barrón-López is the White House Correspondent for the PBS NewsHour, where she covers the Biden administration for the nightly news broadcast. She is also a CNN political analyst.

Layla Quran is a general assignment producer for PBS NewsHour. She was previously a foreign affairs reporter and producer.
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