“I’m off the deep end…” took on another meaning in the last days before the election as “Shallow” singer Lady Gaga, who performed the Oscar-winning ballad at Joe Biden’s eleventh-hour rally in the battleground state of Pennsylvania Monday night, found herself as the attack target of Donald Trump under more bizarre circumstances than already typical of the president.
After spending the day the subject of the Trump campaign’s bullying—related to a, by all accounts, unsubstantiated tie to an anti-fracking group eight years ago—Lady Gaga took the stage at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh to open for Biden before he made his final address of the campaign. And if Trump sniveled during a speech earlier in the day that he “could tell you stories about Lady Gaga,” she returned the volley with a damning spike Monday night.
“To all the women and all the men with daughters and sisters and mothers, everybody, no matter how you identify, now is your chance to vote against Donald Trump, a man who believes his fame gives him the right to grab one of your daughters or sisters or mothers or wives by any part of their bodies,” she said, as cars at the drive-in honked in approval. “Vote for Joe. He’s a good person. Thank you.”
After her speech, in which she told a story about how her family is from Pittsburgh and that she used to be engaged to man from Pennsylvania (ex-fiance Taylor Kinney), she returned to the stage to perform a rendition of “Shallow” she said she was going to sing so loud “the whole state can hear me.” She followed it up with a passionate rendition of “You and I,” replete with a mid-ballad kiss-off to a Fox News attempt to criticize her for being a liberal celebrity elite appealing to Pennsylvania voters.
Her final words: “Let’s vote Trump out.”
There’s no role more fleeting as Trump’s celebrity nemesis du jour, but it’s especially dramatic casting for Lady Gaga to earn the role in the twilight of the election.
The pop star and actress has been vocal about who she would be voting for, and has used her platform for a practically endless output of get-out-the-vote PSAs. That she would be booked as the headline entertainment for the Biden-Harris campaign’s Election Eve rally should come as no surprise—just as, one should suppose, Trump’s reactionary belittling of her followed, or that the basis of his insults made little sense (unless, of course, the first thing you think of when you think about Lady Gaga is her stance on fracking).
In response to the announcement that she would be performing at the drive-in rally Monday night, Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh tweeted, “Nothing exposes Biden’s disdain for the forgotten working men & women of PA like campaigning with anti-fracking activist Lady Gaga. This desperate effort to drum up enthusiasm is actually a sharp stick in the eye for 600,000 Pennsylvanians who work in the fracking industry.” An entire statement on letterhead and everything.
That, almost immediately, people started commenting on the tweet pointing out the lie that the Biden campaign officially plans to ban fracking, and that the eye-popping number of Pennsylvanians Murtaugh’s tweet touts as working in the fracking industry is grossly exaggerated, didn’t matter. The campaign followed it up with a longer news release that tenuously tied Gaga to a long-defunct website called artistsagainstfracking.com.
And, obviously, Trump made his own tweet about it.
“Just learned that Sleepy Joe Biden is campaigning in Pennsylvania with Lady Gaga, a proud member of ‘Artists Against Fracking.’ This is more proof that he would ban Fracking and skyrocket your energy prices…,” he wrote, despite the fact that, again, there does not even seem to be an organization in existence for her to be a “proud member of,” and that candidate Biden has never said he plans to ban fracking.
The only substantiation internet sleuths appear to have found for this apparently relentless Lady Gaga anti-fracking mission is an October 2012 post on her Facebook page that, without comment or endorsement, posted a link to the Artists Against Fracking website.
In her own response Monday, Gaga quote-tweeted Murtaugh’s original post with the caption, “HEY TIM HEY @realDonaldTrump SO HAPPY IM GLAD TO BE LIVING RENT FREE in your HEAD. #BidenHarris.” Embedded along with was the press release that she had graffitied across with the message: “#WINNING (also what is fracking?) keep your jobs PA…we [love] you.”
Lady Gaga’s public response to being attacked as an anti-fracking activist and labeled a Biden campaign liability because of it: What the hell is fracking?
Still, Trump continued to pour gasoline on the fire. Escalating things by making the attacks more lecherous, he told a crowd at a rally Monday afternoon, “Lady Gaga is not good. I could tell you stories about Lady Gaga…” As the crowd booed and the snippet of his speech went viral, this micro-story’s version of “there’s always a tweet” surfaced.
On Monday afternoon, as Gaga became a Trump campaign talking point, Fox News published a story that surfaced a video Gaga had posted to social media on Saturday, alleging that it had stirred backlash against her and her Biden campaign efforts. In the video, she’s dressed in camouflage in front of a pickup truck, cracks a beer, and calls out people who live in Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, Florida or Arizona especially to go vote. The article called the video “a condescending parody of rural Americans.”
Gaga addressed the controversy during her performance of “You and I,” saying during a piano interlude, “I will not be told what I can and cannot wear to endorse our future president. So this is what I have to say about that: I may not always look at you, but I am you. We are each other.”
At face value, “owning the libs by slamming Lady Gaga” is an undeniably strange strategy.
Biden and Lady Gaga’s partnership goes back to 2017, when they released a PSA together about sexual assault and domestic violence. Not only has she been a visible presence through this election, she also campaigned for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Just three days ago, she released a PSA attempting to sway all those who are jaded with politics or uninterested in the election to vote anyway. She dressed in an assortment of her iconic costumes from years past, which, as far as the flood of celebrity PSAs go, ranks among the more interesting gimmicks. “Let’s be real, you know who I voted for,” she says near the end, wearing her MTV VMAs meat dress. (Hint: It’s the person she sang for Monday night.)
Gaga’s involvement in the rally went undeterred throughout the day Monday as fans politely laughed at the insinuation that the “Born This Way” singer’s position on fracking would be the thing that sways Biden one way or another. In fact, the level of excitement for her appearance at the rally only escalated, with those outside the arena as she performed the soundcheck for “Shallow” posting video clips online that themselves went viral.
Her message Monday night in Pennsylvania just before she signed off: “America, I love you. I pray for you tomorrow. Let’s win this. Pennsylvania, go blue!”