Fact Check: Trump Administration Did NOT Claim Songwriter Billie Eilish Is 'Destroying Our Country' In Leaked Documents

Fact Check

  • by: Eric Ferkenhoff
Fact Check: Trump Administration Did NOT Claim Songwriter Billie Eilish Is 'Destroying Our Country' In Leaked Documents Misattributed

Did the Trump administration state that Billie Eilish, the acclaimed songwriter, is "destroying our country and everything we care about" in leaked documents? No, that is not true. Eilish was the one who said that Trump was ruining the nation and America's values during August's Democratic National Convention -- not the other way around. The story started with The Washington Post, which initially made the mix-up on October 29, 2020, and was called out by the tabloid New York Post. The Washington Post corrected its story the next day, but the claim quickly gained social media traction.

The claim appears in a post (archived here) published to Instagram by the website Baller Alert on October 31, 2020. The post read:

Trump Administration Document Claims Billie Eilish Is "Destroying Our Country And Everything We Care About"

Here is how the post appeared on Instagram at the time of writing:

View this post on Instagram

Trump Administration Document Claims Billie Eilish Is "Destroying Our Country And Everything We Care About"⁠ ⁠ Blogged by: @honeygrip ⁠ ⁠ The #TrumpAdministration seems to think #BillieEilish is really the "Bad Guy."⁠ ⁠ In a leaked document obtained the the New York Post, Trump's appointees ran down a list of 274 celebrities and agreed about who would be a good fit to star in an ad, with most stars easily rejected for being anti-Trump.⁠ ⁠ One name that stood out: Billie Eilish. The administration didn't seem to be keen on the pop star. The documents described Eilish as "not a Trump supporter" and "destroying our country and everything we care about."⁠ ⁠ Other celebrities rejected by the Trump administration include Jennifer Lopez (for her sexy Super Bowl performance that criticized immigration policies), Justin Timberlake (for past support of President Obama and gay marriage) and Christina Aguilera (for past support of Obama), while celebrities who seemingly made the cut were actor Dennis Quaid, talk show host Dr.Oz and singer Billy Ray Cyrus.⁠ ⁠ Unfortunately, the entire ad campaign probably won't see the light of day. The mastermind behind the campaign, Trump's Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Michael Caputo, is currently on a 60-day leave of absence after he made baseless claims to Trump supporters during a Facebook Live broadcast, telling them to prepare for a violent uprising led by left-wing groups. Follow @polialertcom - LAUNCHING SOON

A post shared by Baller Alert (@balleralert) on

The claim is false, as shown in this correction by The Washington Post from October 30, 2020, to its story from a day earlier:

An earlier version of this report incorrectly attributed Billie Eilish's comment about Trump "destroying our country and everything we care about," to the team vetting her, rather than to her own remarks.

Still, Baller Alert wrote a story -- and has yet to correct it as of this writing -- the same day, October 30, 2020, that read:

The Trump Administration seems to think Billie Eilish is really the "Bad Guy."

In a leaked document obtained (by) the the New York Post, Trump's appointees ran down a list of 274 celebrities and agreed about who would be a good fit to star in an ad, with most stars easily rejected for being anti-Trump.

One name that stood out: Billie Eilish. The administration didn't seem to be keen on the pop star. The documents described Eilish as "not a Trump supporter" and "destroying our country and everything we care about."

Other celebrities rejected by the Trump administration include Jennifer Lopez (for her sexy Super Bowl performance that criticized immigration policies), Justin Timberlake (for past support of President Obama and gay marriage) and Christina Aguilera (for past support of Obama), while celebrities who seemingly made the cut were actor Dennis Quaid, talk show host Dr.Oz and singer Billy Ray Cyrus.

Unfortunately, the entire ad campaign probably won't see the light of day. The mastermind behind the campaign, Trump's Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Michael Caputo, is currently on a 60-day leave of absence after he made baseless claims to Trump supporters during a Facebook Live broadcast, telling them to prepare for a violent uprising led by left-wing groups."

Baller Alert took its story, which names the New York Post instead of The Washington Post as the original source of the "leaked document" report, to social media, where the claim is still up as of this writing.

The confusion started with an October 29, 2020, story in The Washington Post, which was in part about the Trump administration vetting celebrity candidates for proposed advertisements aimed at fighting despair over the pandemic. Here is the corrected paragraph about Eilish and the administration, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.

Among those who did not make the cut were actress Jennifer Lopez, because she had criticized the president's immigration policies at her Super Bowl performance; director Judd Apatow, because he "believes Trump does not have the intellectual capacity to run as President"; and singer-songwriter Billie Eilish, described as "not a Trump Supporter" and notes she described Trump as "destroying our country and everything we care about," according to a document that outlines issues with numerous celebrities under consideration for the campaign.

The Washington Post's error was noted soon after it ran by the New York Post, which ran a story beginning with:

A Washington Post story wrongly claimed the Trump administration accused Billie Eilish of "destroying our country" -- then spread like wildfire among the entertainment industry.

The article on Thursday -- in part about hundreds of celebrities being vetted for a Trump administration coronavirus ad campaign -- included a misattributed quote from the White House about Eilish.

"Donald Trump is destroying our country and everything we care about," the Grammy-winning singer said at the Democratic National Convention in August.

Citing leaked documents obtained by Democratic House lawmakers, the Washington Post incorrectly wrote that the Trump officials described Eilish as "not a Trump supporter," saying she is "destroying our country and everything we care about."

A screenshot of the leaked papers showed that Trump officials' description of Eilish was clear -- they said the "Bad Guy" singer "made a political statement on gun control in 2019; will be a first-time voter in 2020; not a Trump supporter, stated he 'is destroying our country and everything we care about.'"

The New York Post noted in its story that The Washington Post corrected the error. But others, including the celebrity site TMZ, picked up on it before the correction was made. TMZ, for example, updated its piece the same day with:

The Trump administration might not hate Billie as much as everyone thought ... the Washington Post report detailing the alleged beef between the Prez and the singer is under intense scrutiny.

Some folks are saying the WaPo took the "destroying our country and everything we care about" quote out of context. It's what Billie said about Trump at the DNC, and allegedly NOT what a top Trump official said about her.

The doc actually says Billie "stated he 'is destroying our country and everything we care about'" ... according to Vice. In other words, the doc was just summing up Billie's views on Trump."

Here is a YouTube video of Entertainment Tonight covering the comments Eilish made during the online convention:

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  Eric Ferkenhoff

Eric Ferkenhoff has been a reporter, editor and professor for 27 years, working chiefly out of the Midwest and now the South. Focusing on the criminal and juvenile justice systems, education and politics, Ferkenhoff has won several journalistic and academic awards and helped start a fact-checking project at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he continues to teach advanced reporting. Ferkenhoff also writes and edits for the juvenile justice site JJIE.org.

 

Read more about or contact Eric Ferkenhoff

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