Some of the events of this past weekend—the size of the protest crowds, the question-free “alternative facts” press briefing—were without precedent. But one was so familiar that it warrants a Groundhog’s Day comparison: Madonna said something controversial, and controversy ensued.
Early in her speech at the Women’s March on Washington in D.C., Madonna gave a message “to our detractors that insist this march will never add up to anything.”
That message: “Fuck you. Fuck you.”
“Yes, I’m angry,” she went on to say. “Yes, I’m outraged. Yes, I have thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House.”
“But,” she added, “I know that this won’t change anything. We can’t fall into despair. As the poet W.H. Auden once wrote on the eve of World War II, we must love one another or die. I choose love. Are you with me? Say this with me. We choose love. We choose love. We choose love.”
Her speech has now taken on outsized importance in reactions to the demonstrations, especially among conservatives. Newt Gingrich and Piers Morgan both said Madonna should be arrested. Kellyanne Conway, on the same afternoon where she coined the term “alternative facts,” directed a question about the march toward the pop star:
You have celebrities from the podium using profanity-laced insults. You have a very prominent singer who’s worth hundreds of millions of dollars not going over to a woman’s shelter here in D.C. to write a check, but instead saying that she thought of, quote, “burning down the White House.”
Of course, Madonna’s message was not as inflammatory as it was made to sound: She’s against violence, and she mentioned her terrorist impulses only to reject them. In a statement on Sunday, she further clarified her “one phrase taken wildly out of context,” saying, “I spoke in metaphor and I shared two ways of looking at things—one was to be hopeful, and one was to feel anger and outrage, which I have personally felt. However, I know that acting out of anger doesn’t solve anything. And the only way to change things for the better is to do it with love.”