On the heels of the release of Lover, Taylor Swift said that Donald Trump is “gaslighting the American public” in a new interview with The Guardian. In the interview excerpt, published on Aug. 23, Swift spoke out against the president for the first time and said that Trump is “gaslighting the American public into being like, ‘If you hate the president, you hate America.’” She told The Guardian, “We’re a democracy — at least, we’re supposed to be — where you’re allowed to disagree, dissent, debate. I really think that he thinks this is an autocracy.”
Her rare political remarks come after her silence during the 2016 presidential election, which drew criticism from commentators. In her interview, Swift attributed her political silence to her negative public image at the time, which she explained made it feel “just useless” and “even like a hindrance” to speak out. During that time, Swift was embroiled in a highly-publicized dispute with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, which originally stemmed from when West disrupted Swift’s speech at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards and eventually spiraled into a bigger feud. More so, her mother had suffered a cancer relapse around the same time.
“I was just trying to protect my mental health — not read the news very much, go cast my vote, tell people to vote,” Swift told The Guardian about that tumultuous era. “I just knew what I could handle and I knew what I couldn’t. I was literally about to break.”
The “Lover” singer also revealed that she felt “really remorseful for not saying anything” and that she would have otherwise endorsed 2016 presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton. Swift also expressed her thoughts on abortion rights since, at the time of her interview, Tennessee lawmakers had hoped to implement a near-total abortion ban in the state. "Obviously, I’m pro-choice," she said. "I just can’t believe this is happening."
Swift’s comments about Trump come on the heels of her efforts to be more vocal about politics in her career. On June 17, she unveiled the new track and music video for “You Need to Calm Down” ahead of Lover’s Aug. 23 release. The colorful music video — filled with bright rainbows color schemes and populated by notable members of the LGBTQ community such as Billy Porter, Laverne Cox, and the Queer Eye cast — called on fans to support the Equality Act, a bill that prohibits discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
Additionally, prior to “You Need to Calm Down,” Swift penned an open letter to Republican Senator Lamar Alexander that called on the Republican lawmaker to support the bill. In social media posts shared with fans before the start of Pride Month, Swift also shared a petition that called on the Senate to support the bill. It has since amassed over 495,000 signatures.
"Our country’s lack of protection for its own citizens ensures that LGBTQ people must live in fear that their lives could be turned upside down by an employer or landlord who is homophobic or transphobic," she wrote in the open letter. "The fact that, legally, some people are completely at the mercy of the hatred and bigotry of others is disgusting and unacceptable… Let’s show our pride by demanding that, on a national level, our laws truly treat all of our citizens equally.”
Swift had previously said that Lover would contain "political undertones," but with her new statements, it seems the singer is ready to do more than just speak through her songs, she's ready to take a political stand.