Tennessee Democrat Taylor Swift Endorsed Is Losing Volunteers Over Brett Kavanaugh Support

Democratic Senate candidate Phil Bredesen continued to receive backlash after he put his support behind then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Since that announcement several weeks ago, campaign volunteers and staffers have reportedly withdrawn their support or expressed disappointment in the candidate's choice to support Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual assault and misconduct by multiple women.

While it's only a small fraction of his overall volunteer base, at least 22 volunteers for Bredesen contacted the campaign to cancel door-knocking and phone-banking shifts or to simply voice their frustration over Bredesen's decision, according to a spreadsheet maintained by the campaign and obtained by Politico.

Rhonda McDowell, a campaign volunteer in Memphis, told Politico she "felt torpedoed" by Bredesen's support for Kavanaugh.

"I was so conflicted about it for a while, but the more I think about these candidates who are down the ballot, the more I think I don't want to cut off my nose to spite my face here," McDowell said.

In the days leading up to Kavanaugh's confirmation vote, Bredesen released a statement saying he believed Kavanaugh was worthy of becoming a Supreme Court justice and that he was already "prepared to say 'yes' to his nomination prior to Dr. [Christine Blasey] Ford's coming forward."

"While the subsequent events make it a much closer call, and I am missing key pieces of information that a sitting Senator has, I'm still a 'yes,'" said Bredesen, referring to the FBI's supplemental background investigation into some of the sexual assault allegations leveled against the nominee.

In addition to disapproval from volunteers and supporters, three staff members of the Tennessee Democratic Party at Bredesen's campaign offices in Nashville also appeared disappointed in a secretly recorded video produced by the far-right political group Project Veritas Action Fund, known for its "sting" operations on Democratic politicians. The video, heavily edited and misleading or false at times, showed staff members claiming the move to support Kavanaugh was a political one to gain more support in the conservative state, rather than to show Bredesen's true feelings about Kavanaugh.

Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini told Newsweek in a statement the people shown in the video are field organizers with Tennessee Victory 2018, an umbrella grassroots organization of the state party that works to elect Democrats across the state. They are not staff members of the Bredesen for Senate campaign.

"For weeks, a young woman claiming to be a supporter volunteered and gained their trust," said Mancini, referring to the woman secretly recording the staffers who labeled herself as a "journalist" in the video. "Then, per the usual slimy tactics of [James] O'Keefe and Project Veritas, she betrayed that trust for cynical political gain."

Federal Election Commission records show the three staffers identified in the video–Delaney Brown, Will Stewart and Maria Amalla–are paid by the state's Democratic Party. Tennessee Democratic Party Spokesman Mark Brown told Newsweek they were "simply expressing their opinions to someone they thought was a friend" and do not have "access to any high-level campaign strategy or messaging, and no one in that video knows the inner thoughts of Governor Bredesen."

Tennessee Victory 2018 said it was considering legal action against Project Veritas.

The Bredesen campaign did not respond to Newsweek's questions Friday about the video or the reported backlash Bredesen has received for his stance on Kavanaugh.

Bredesen, a former Tennessee governor, is currently running against Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn for the state's open Senate seat. Blackburn beat her Democratic opponent in 2016 by nearly 50 percentage points.

"He put off an answer on judge Kavanaugh for 88 days, under [Senate Minority Leader] Chuck Schumer's direction to stay neutral as long as you can," said Blackburn in a statement after Bredesen's initial announcement supporting Kavanaugh. "The contrast on these issues could not be more clear."

Blackburn's campaign provided a statement to local TV station WTVF in recent days after reports of backlash from volunteers surfaced and the Project Veritas video was posted, calling Bredesen "Phony Phil" for what she said was "phony campaign tactics" for his support of Kavanaugh.

"This is exactly the kind of 'say whatever to get elected' politics Tennesseans hate," Blackburn's campaign said. "Marsha always says you 'may not always agree with me, but you will always know where I stand.'"

In a rare move for the popular singer, Tennessee native Taylor Swift endorsed Bredesen and Democrat House candidate Jim Cooper on Monday while taking a swipe at Blackburn, saying the GOP Congresswoman's voting record "appalls and terrifies me."

"In the past I've been reluctant to publicly voice my political opinions, but due to several events in my life and in the world in the past two years, I feel very differently about that now," Swift said.

Following Swift's endorsement of the two Democrats, Trump said the singer "probably doesn't know anything" about Blackburn. The president joked he no longer liked her music as much because of the endorsement.

"And let's say that I like Taylor's music about 25 percent less now, Okay?" Trump said.