Kellyanne Conway criticized Taylor Swift's MTV VMAs speech by singing Swift's own lyrics
Kellyanne Conway incited the rage of a slew of “Swifties” on social media when she invoked Taylor Swift’s own lyrics as part of a rebuke of the pop star’s push for the Equality Act at the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards.
The senior White House aide appeared on Fox News on Tuesday, and said that while she believes Swift, 29, is entitled to her opinion, she had already gone up once against President Donald Trump and “handily” lost, as Conway put it, attempting to invalidate Swift’s encouragement of the award show audience to sign a petition urging the Senate to vote on the act.
“I actually like the new Taylor Swift song, it’s called ‘You Need to Calm Down.’ I can sing it for you,” said Conway, 52, before breaking into several bars. “’If you say it on the street, that’s a knockout/If you put it in a tweet that’s a cop out.’ I love that. That basically is Washington in a nutshell.”
Conway continued, “I think that when Hollywood and singers and all go political, it sounds in the moment like it’s very popular. And we’ve seen so many times where it backfires and it blows up, and she’s also somebody who went up against President Trump head to head in the United States Senate race in Tennessee and lost handily.” (Swift had endorsed Democrat Phil Bredesen, who was then beaten by Republican Marsha Blackburn in November.)
Fans of Swift did not take kindly to Conway’s digs, with many hopping on Twitter to defend the Grammy-winning singer.
“SWIFTIES IT’S TIME. WE’VE BEEN TRAINING FOR THIS MOMENT. THIS IS THE BOSS LEVEL. WE MUST TAKE DOWN KELLYANNE CONWAY,” user @ryanferreira wrote.
Another fan took things a step further, calling to mind the good and evil witches famously featured in The Wizard of Oz.
“Love it! @KellyannePolls is soooooo obviously envious of @taylorswift13. First of all, Taylor has a heart and a soul reminding us of the Good Witch of the West; Kellyanne is the Wicked Witch of America.#TaylorIsWinning,” wrote user @scoootchover.
Swift used her platform as winner of video of the year at the VMAs on Monday to promote the pro-LGBTQ Equality Act, which would prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
“I want to thank everyone who signed that petition because it has half a million signatures, which is five times the amount it would need to warrant a response from the White House,” Swift said, before making a conspicuous checking-my-watch gesture.
Conway said on Fox News that the White House and Trump do support equality, but not pieces of legislation that “have poison pills in them that can harm other people.”
She also snuck in a jab at Swift’s younger-skewing fanbase, saying, “I would love to just survey the audience [at the VMAs] if they know what that even is, what the Equality Act is and isn’t.”
The pop star’s proclamation at the ceremony was the second time she’s joined the discussion; just before Pride month in June, Swift shared a copy of a letter she had written to Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander urging him to support the Equality Act.
Her decision to speak out was met with praise from stars like Laverne Cox, who appeared in a brief cameo in the “You Need to Calm Down” video alongside other LGBTQ stars.
“It’s not for everyone, but she’s doing it with such class,” Cox tells PEOPLE. “I’m not surprised the White House has not said anything about the Equality Act, but I think it was courageous … She’s already been attacked by certain folks and so I just, I’m grateful that she’s out there doing it.”
The legislation was passed by the House in May, though many Republicans have spoken out against it.
The White House issued a statement after the VMAs that was identical to the one shared after Swift first spoke out in May.
“The Trump Administration absolutely opposes discrimination of any kind and supports the equal treatment of all; however, the House-passed bill in its current form is filled with poison pills that threaten to undermine parental and conscience rights,” the statement from White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere said.