Right-wing social media influencers are peddling a conspiracy theory that pop star Taylor Swift and Kansas City Chiefs player Travis Kelce’s relationship is an artificial ploy meant to benefit Democrats in the 2024 elections. And while some of former President Donald Trump’s biggest online cheerleaders are pushing the baseless claims, many of Trump’s supporters aren’t buying it.
“To be honest and blunt, I think that’s crazy. It’s absolutely crazy,” said Nic Heimsoth, a two-time Trump voter from Kansas City, Missouri.
Whether it’s the right-wing influencer and Trump supporter Laura Loomer (who alleged a Democratic “Taylor Swift election interference psyop” on X), the far-right social media account “End Wokeness” (which wrote on X: “What’s happening with Taylor Swift is not organic and natural. It’s an op.”) or even Fox News host Jesse Waters (who claimed Swift was a “front for a covert political agenda”), the theory has become pervasive in right-wing circles.
MAGA influencers seem to believe, or at least claim to believe, that Swift and her boyfriend are Democratic puppets and that NFL games were rigged to get Kelce, perhaps with Swift in tow, to the Super Bowl this weekend.
“I wonder who’s going to win the Super Bowl next month,” former GOP presidential candidate and Trump backer Vivek Ramaswamy wrote on X in late January. “And I wonder if there’s a major presidential endorsement coming from an artificially culturally propped-up couple this fall. Just some wild speculation over here, let’s see how it ages over the next 8 months.”
But for Trump voters — even some of whom believe that Trump won the 2020 presidential election and that Jan. 6 was an inside job — this Swift theory is a bridge too far.
Cynthia Yockey, 70, is a two-time Trump voter who plans to cast her ballot for him again in November. Yockey, a ghostwriter from Fairfield, Iowa, doesn’t trust Democrats. But that doesn’t mean she’s in on this conspiracy theory.
“The Democrats will use fair means and foul to win, but that’s nonsense,” she said of the conspiracy theory.
“Democrats’ record of hoaxes is pretty long,” she added. “It’s been a steady stream of manipulations, so it becomes easy to start to use that filter to see everything. I would love for Republicans to chill so that we start working with the real hoaxes.”
But Sharron Anderson, 67, of Etowah, Tennessee, said she is skeptical of Swift’s role in pop culture.
“Her views line up with the woke generation, and evidence shows that generation’s led by misinformation and extreme left ideology,” Anderson said.
“It’s very possible, and probable, that the Biden campaign would use her as a major influence in the 2024 election,” she added.
But most of the dozen Trump supporters NBC News spoke to disagree with Anderson.
“Everyone’s trying to find some political vantage to everything,” Craig Gingrich, 75, a substitute teacher from Cedar Falls, Iowa, said of Swift and Kelce’s relationship. “I don’t buy into it, and I don’t think a lot of my conservative friends do, either.”
Gary Leffler, 62, of West Des Moines, Iowa, said he’s not confident in the results of the 2020 election. He doesn’t believe that Swift and Kelce are a fake couple to help Democrats, but he said that since the last presidential election, Trump supporters like him are questioning everything.
“People are a lot more cautious about the press; they’re much more cautious about when things don’t look quite right. And people are a lot more observant,” Leffler said.
Heimsoth, a big Chiefs fan, said: “The closer we get to the election, the more everything is going to involve politics and political gain. People just want to grasp onto something so that they can be part of this roller coaster ride with everybody else.”
Tyler Linnenbur, 28, of Littleton, Colorado, plans to vote for Trump come November and is also dismissive of the Swift-Kelce theory. But he believes Democrats might try to seize on the couple’s pervasive popularity.
“I do think that the Democratic Party may take the opportunity to try to get Taylor to endorse them, but I don’t think there was a scheme,” Linnenbur said.
In 2018, Swift entered the political fray when she endorsed a Democratic Senate candidate in Tennessee. Two years later, she endorsed Biden for president and expressed regret for not having gotten politically involved in the run-up to the 2016 election. The New York Times recently reported that, not surprisingly, Swift — one of the biggest superstars in the world — is high on the Biden campaign’s endorsement wish list.
Swift’s boyfriend, Kelce, hasn’t been political. But his role appearing in Pfizer ads and promoting the company’s Covid-19 vaccine has stoked the ire of some on the right.
“I don’t know if there’s a big conspiracy,” said Evan Deal, 21, of Algona, Iowa. He did, however, entertain the idea that Kelce and Swift are dating as a marketing ploy for Pfizer.
“It kind of makes sense that they’d want the Chiefs to go to the Super Bowl for the publicity,” he said.
Young Trump fanatic Owen Laufenberg, of Montfort, Wisconsin, doesn’t think Swift and Kelce’s relationship is political propaganda. But he does believe Swift has a larger role in the NFL than first meets the eye.
“It’s kind of actually crazy how she’s, like, running the NFL right now. It’s insane,” said Laufenberg, 19, a Trump supporter.
Pressed about what he means by the notion that Swift is somehow “running” the football league, Laufenberg expanded.
“It seems like we see more of Taylor Swift than actually the football game,” he said. “It’s just suspicious how that is happening all the time.”
But Laufenberg’s suspicion isn’t overtly political; he said it’s just emblematic of his overall skepticism of the league — including his belief that the results of games are rigged.
“There’s no way the Lions lost,” Laufenberg said, unconvinced by Detroit’s late-stage loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship game. “These comebacks are not believable.”
Trump’s supporters aren’t the only ones skeptical of the Swift theory. Trump’s only remaining major GOP rival, Nikki Haley, also dismissed it in an interview with CNN recently.
“Taylor Swift is allowed to have a boyfriend,” said Haley, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. “Taylor Swift is a good artist. I’ve taken my daughter to Taylor Swift concerts before. To have a conspiracy theory of all of this is bizarre.”
At a Haley event in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, on Thursday, few attendees — including some of Trump’s supporters outside the venue — were aware of exactly what the Swift conspiracy theory entailed and asked NBC News to explain it.
Maureen Bulger, a Republican Haley supporter from Bluffton, South Carolina, said the idea that Swift’s supporting Biden and rallying her fans behind him is a conspiracy fell flat.
“You know what? If people follow Taylor Swift, that’s politics,” she said. “You’re going to have those people. Look at all the people who are following the Kansas City Chiefs right now because they love Taylor Swift. That’s going to happen. That’s politics. You just hope that people in America are smarter than that.”
Leffler said that even if Swift does endorse Biden, he isn’t worried, because, in his view, “endorsements don’t count for nothing.”
Leffler noted that his home state governor, Kim Reynolds, endorsed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in the GOP presidential caucuses. DeSantis ended up losing badly to Trump.
“That was a train to nowhere,” Leffler said.
Alex Tabet reported from New York City, Allan Smith from South Carolina and Dan Gallo and Jake Traylor from Nevada.