San Francisco — The ACLU of Northern California today sent a letter to Taylor Swift and her attorney refuting their meritless legal defamation threats against a local blogger.
On Sep. 5, PopFront editor Meghan Herning wrote a post titled “Swiftly to the alt-right: Taylor subtly gets the lower case kkk in formation.” The post is a mix of political speech and critical commentary, and discusses the resurgence of white supremacy and the fact that some white supremacists have embraced Swift. It also provides a critical interpretation of some of Swift’s music, lyrics, and videos. The post ends by calling on Swift to personally denounce white supremacy, saying “silence in the face of injustice means support for the oppressor.”
On Oct. 25, Herning received an intimidating letter from Swift and her attorney labeling the blog post as defamatory and demanding that she issue a retraction, remove the story from all media sources, and cease and desist. The letter threatened a lawsuit.
“This is a completely unsupported attempt to suppress constitutionally protected speech,” said ACLU of Northern California attorney Michael Risher.
The letter went on to say that it should serve as an “unequivocal denouncement by Ms. Swift of white supremacy and the alt-right.” But that denunciation would only be known by Herning because the letter also attempts to use copyright law to forbid her from making it public.
“Intimidation tactics like these are unacceptable,” said ACLU attorney Matt Cagle. “Not in her wildest dreams can Ms. Swift use copyright law to suppress this exposure of a threat to constitutionally protected speech.”
Herning contacted the ACLU after receiving the letter from Swift's attorney, and ACLU lawyers determined the legal claims were unsupported. The blog post is opinion protected by the First Amendment.
“The press should not be bullied by high-paid lawyers or frightened into submission by legal jargon,” said Herning. “These scare tactics may have worked for Taylor in the past, but I am not backing down.”
The ACLU has requested a response from Swift and her attorney by Nov. 13 confirming that they will not pursue a lawsuit.