Up until now, Nicki Minaj’s greatest controversy seemed to be that she knowingly married a man who has been convicted of attempting to rape a woman, a transgression that was readily overlooked by her loyal legion of fans, collectively referred to as “Barbz.”
But as of Monday, that truth changed dramatically in one fell tweet that at once challenged conventional wisdom with a twist of anti-vaxxing: She claimed one of the reasons she was hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine is because her cousin’s friend suffered “swollen testicles” following his own vaccination. Minaj concluded that unfortunate — and unproven — condition was linked to the vaccination before doubling down on that unverified third-party report by saying that fateful person’s fiancee then left him because of said “swollen testicles.”
She immediately went viral for all the wrong reasons in a seemingly neverending episode that has involved everyone from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top disease expert, to the White House, to the government of Minaj’s native Trinidad and Tobago, which was compelled to debunk Minaj’s lies, to — perhaps the most unlikely part — rabid right-wing MAGA conservatives whose language is typically dripping with anti-Black rhetoric.
The combination of all of the above was one plot twist that, it’s safe to say, absolutely no one saw coming this year.
Fox News on Wednesday night was proudly playing audio of Minaj’s social media outburst about the treatment she’s received from the public after sharing her horrific COVID-19 vaccine conspiracy theory about enlarged nether regions. The video was widely shared by people like Brigitte Gabriel, a Lebanese anti-Muslim activist and author whose support for the vaccine only extends to Donald Trump, who she credits for its existence.
Even before that, in a very telling sign, far-right extremist cable TV commentator Tucker Carlson instantly gravitated to Minaj’s Twitter tale and said he wanted to interview the purported friend of Minaj’s cousin — if either of them actually exists. The prevailing logic is that Carlson was likely interested in using a dissenting Black voice — one that is insanely popular and influential — in order to justify his own indefensible anti-vaccine stance.
Carlson, it can’t be forgotten, is the same person who has been described as “the voice of white grievance” and who recently called the government’s vaccination plan “the greatest scandal in my lifetime.”
Next thing you know, Candace Owens — she who has readily mocked celebrities’ influence and said she’s “proud” to be unvaccinated — jumped on Carlson’s bandwagon to champion Minaj, her cousin, and her cousin’s alleged friend.
Owens publicly thanked Minaj, who she said was among “real queens” who are “speaking truth.” (On a side note, it could have actually been Minaj’s lyrics video for her single, “Only,” that BET described as having “conjured memories of Hitler’s Nazi regime” that bonded the rapper and Owens, who in 2019 shared sympathetic sentiment about the murderous and anti-Semitic dictator.
To say that Carlson and Owens’ collective defense and support of a rapper, let alone Nicki Minaj, is an opportunistic moment for their obvious ulterior, partisan, anti-vaxxing motives is an understatement.
Both have disparaged rappers as well as so-called influencers, even as they each enjoy the latter status.
Carlson ad Owens had nothing but bad things to say about Minaj’s contemporaries Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B’s song, “WAP,” and its performance at the 2021 Grammy Awards.
But chances are that their opinions would quickly shift if either rapper publicly expressed skepticism, hesitance or disapproval of the vaccine.
To be sure, this is not the first time Minaj has waded into political waters. But she has never shown a clear preference for Democrats or Republicans. For instance, just last year she called Trump “childish” while also expressing how entertaining she found his candidacy for re-election.
“I think he’s hilarious,” she told Billboard without acknowledging the actual damage his presidency did to the country and especially Black and brown people in the U.S. “I wish they could just film him running for president. That’s the ultimate reality show.”
Weeks later, Minaj offered up some Twitter criticism of Democrats and claimed they “will continue to beat up on eachother while y’all laugh & Trump will win again.” She ultimately deleted that tweet.
Owens, who has shown us as much with the Nicki Minaj situation, is on the record as questioning and trying to invalidate the influence of celebrity culture — that is until it suits her agenda.
Carlson and Owens are far from alone in their right-wing support for Minaj. The end result has been an unlikely marriage between the Barbz and a growing number of like-minded sunken conservatives.
What’s even stranger is how the opportunistic right-wingers chose to gravitate to Minaj’s outlandish — and unproven — conspiracy theory of COVID-19 vaccine-induced impotence and disfigured genitalia when there has been no shortage of rappers pushing their own mistruths about the vaccine and the pandemic at large.
In fact, plenty of rappers have publicly shared their anti-mask and anti-vaccine rhetoric.
But none involved reproductive organs, unlike Minaj’s story. And since we know that sex sells — no matter how grotesque and outlandish the context is — perhaps it really shouldn’t be a surprise that Republicans who have defended Trump’s admitted sexual assault of multiple women latched on to Minaj’s now-widely debunked claims.
After all, this is America.