Stars Who Have Been Investigated By The Secret Service
Stars, they’re just like us … except their platforms are a teensy bit bigger! While the anonymity of being an average Jane or Joe allows many internet users to spout political takes on Facebook freely, anytime a celebrity crosses a line, it’s going to cause a bit more fuss. Not all celebs hate talking about politics, but when a comment is made that could be seen as a threat, it’s going to catch the attention of not just their fans, but the big guys, as well. According to their website, one of the Secret Service’s jobs is “protecting various protectees” like the president of the United States. Their duties include remaining abreast of and investigating all threats made against his or her office — which means that yes, a celebrity occasionally comes across their radar, though some cases are more serious than others.
From the comedians who pushed the boundaries past the president’s laughing point, to musicians and actors making political statements, these are stars who have been investigated by the Secret Service.
John Mulaney was investigated by the Secret Service over an SNL joke
John Mulaney ended up on the Secret Service’s radar in February 2020, when he made a joke seemingly comparing then-President Donald Trump to Julius Caesar in his Saturday Night Live opening monologue. Mentioning the fact that Caesar “was such a powerful maniac that all the senators grabbed knives, and they stabbed him to death,” he went on to joke, “That would be an interesting thing if we brought that back now.” Not so subtle! When Mulaney appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! that December, he revealed that the Secret Service investigated him due to the joke, which he called “an elliptical reference” to Trump, rather than a joke “about” him.
“I have to say, am I stoked there’s a file open on me? Absolutely,” Mulaney quipped to Kimmel. “Did I enjoy it in the moment? Not so much.” According to Rolling Stone, who obtained the report made on file, the incident was listed “under the activity ‘Exhibits inappropriate behavior,'” and the Secret Service reached out to the Global Chief Security Office at NBCUniversal, SNL‘s network company, to “express the agency’s desire to discuss the aforementioned incident with attorneys for Mulaney.” Elsewhere, the investigation noted that Mulaney made “no direct threat,” but “due to the popularity, it is likely concerned citizens will report this.”
Mulaney told Kimmel that he’s “been told” that he was “cleared by the Secret Service” … but we also wouldn’t be surprised to see the hilarious comic pushing the boundaries again soon.
Madonna said she considered 'blowing up the White House'
The queen of controversy, Madonna has never been afraid to get political, from quoting Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivor Emma González in “I Rise” to, of course, “Like a Prayer.” Therefore, it was no surprise that she turned up at the 2017 Women’s March rally in Washington D.C. However, the comments she made were a bit more polarizing.
“Yes, I am outraged,” Madge said at the march, according to the Los Angeles Times. “Yes, I have thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House. But I know that this won’t change anything … 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.” While Madonna’s full quote provided a bit more context, the Secret Service was stuck at the first half. Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House, asserted that the pop star “ought to be arrested” on Fox & Friends, per the Times. That same month, a Secret Service spokesman told The Gateway Pundit that “an investigation would be opened but the decision to prosecute rests with the U.S. Attorney’s office.”
The “Hung Up” singer took to Instagram shortly after the march “to clarify some important things,” mainly that she “spoke in metaphor” and was “not a violent person.” It looks like the Secret Service’s investigation went nowhere, further proving the point that there’s nothing Madonna can’t do!
A Secret Service investigation into YG almost stopped his album
Considering YG and late rapper Nipsey Hussle released a protest track called “FDT” — an acronym meaning “F**k Donald Trump” — it’s no surprise that Donald Trump and his Secret Service weren’t exactly big fans. However, YG confirmed that they had taken the track quite seriously in April 2016 — less than a month after its release date — when he told TMZ that the Secret Service “hollered” at him and “asked to see the lyrics on [his forthcoming] album,” adding that if he was “talking about [Trump] on [the] album, they gon’ try to take it off the shelf.”
YG’s second LP, Still Brazy, featured “FDT” and arrived in June 2016 without a fight from the Secret Service, but its rollout did not go off entirely without a hitch. According to Billboard, the police “shut down” the video shoot for “FDT” in Los Angeles, which included “hundreds” of attendees, even though “there was no violence among [them}.”
The ever-confident rapper seemed to take it all in stride, stressing the message behind the political track to TMZ. “We tryna touch the people, we tryna motivate, get all the young people to vote,” YG said.
Snoop Dogg was on the Secret Service's radar
Snoop Dogg has had “a number of brushes with the law,” per his Biography page, but it’s been his outspoken references to Donald Trump that have put him toe-to-toe with the Secret Service. In his 2017 video for “Lavender,” Snoop featured a number of clowns, including one named “Ronald Klump” that “clearly” parodied Trump, which he shoots with a toy gun, per The Washington Post. In a since-deleted tweet via The Post, Trump replied to the visual, writing that Snoop had a “failing career,” and calling for “jail time.” A Secret Service spokesman told The Wrap they were “aware” of the video, but there was never any confirmation on whether a full investigation was launched.
Snoop landed on the Secret Service’s radar once more after unveiling the album artwork for his 2019 album, Make America Crip Again, which, according to The Blast, showed Snoop standing over Trump’s corpse, wrapped in an American flag and wearing a toe tag labelled “Trump.” While the Secret Service told The Blast they were “aware” of the cover, it appears no legal action was taken. Snoop did, however, delete the body tag artwork from his Instagram.
While physical copies boast the corpse art, streaming versions feature an alternate cover with a photo of “a blue hat with the words ‘Make America Crip Again’ — a clear dig at Trump’s … campaign slogan,” per CNN. We doubt Trump was a big fan of the alternative cover either, though.
Tom Arnold was investigated by the Secret Service over some tweets
Actor Tom Arnold is recognized for his roles in movies like True Lies, but he’s also made his distaste for former President Donald Trump known in projects like 2018’s The Hunt for the Trump Tapes with Tom Arnold, which ran on Viceland and followed his search for “incriminating footage of the president,” according to Forbes.
Arnold took the rivalry a step further that October, when he tweeted at Trump, “I say put up or shut up… Me vs You. For America. First body slam wins.” Arnold further rubbed salt in the wound when he replied to a tweet mentioning Kathy Griffin’s controversial photoshoot featuring a bloody mockup of Trump’s head, writing, “Next time Kathy won’t be holding his fake head,” per The Washington Post.
According to a statement Arnold shared on Twitter that November, the Secret Service showed up to his house to question him over the tweet … but he seemed to turn the situation on them. “I heard your message loud & clear,” he wrote. “Words matter. Tone matters. Words can incite violence … I’m sorry Donald Trump hasn’t listened to you all the times you’ve had this exact conversation with him.” Arnold also seemed to sympathize with the Secret Service, who’s called to do the president’s bidding, adding that their “agents are more at risk than anyone,” and “are people with kids just like [him] who just want to know the best place to trick or treat.”
The Secret Service investigated Ted Nugent for threatening Obama
Rock singer and guitarist Ted Nugent found himself under Secret Service investigation in April 2012 after telling attendees at an NRA Convention, “If Barack Obama is elected, I’ll either be dead or in jail this time next year.” He also encouraged people to “ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November” during the election, according to CNN.
This isn’t the first time that Nugent, who has served on the Board of Directors of the NRA for years, got into hot water for comments he’s made onstage directed at Democratic officials, either. According to Rolling Stone, who called him a “renegade right-winger,” Nugent went on a rant about Obama at a California show in 2007, brandishing a machine gun and saying, “Obama, he’s a piece of s**t. I told him to suck on my machine gun.” He also threatened Hillary Clinton, whom he called “a worthless b**ch” who “might want to ride one of these into the sunset.”
While CNN reported that Nugent was questioned for his 2012 comments, it seems nothing came of it. However, Nugent did make an appearance at a 2016 rally for Donald Trump, where he performed the national anthem (via the Detroit Free Press), after he “cut short time at a deer camp to attend the event.” Let’s hope Ted’s busying himself by attending more of those, as of the late.
Kathy Griffin's photoshoot threw a wrench in her entire career
Kathy Griffin and photographer Tyler Shields knew they were diving into deep waters in May 2017, when the duo did a notorious photoshoot depicting the comedian holding a replica of Donald Trump’s bloody and decapitated head. According to TMZ, Griffin even poked fun at the moment on-set, joking “that she and Tyler would need to move to Mexico once the pics got released, for fear they’d be thrown in prison.” Still, she couldn’t have expected a reaction like this.
The New York Times reported just days later that Griffin was being investigated by the Secret Service. Her lawyer said at a press conference that she merely “exercised her First Amendment rights to tell a joke” — however, the fiery-haired comedian wasn’t smiling anymore. “I don’t think I will have a career after this,” Griffin told reporters. “I’m going to be honest. [Trump] broke me.” Soon, her stand-up tour was derailed, she lost endorsement deals, and was fired from her New Year’s Eve gig at CNN. Griffin also claimed Trump and his family were “personally trying to ruin [her] life forever” (via CNN).
Although she apologized for the joke that year, according to the Los Angeles Times, Griffin later recanted her statement and turned it into fodder for her stand-up, which she documented in 2019’s Kathy Griffin: A Hell of a Story. Trump may have called her “sick” in a since-deleted tweet, but it seems like Griffin might have gotten the last laugh.
Creed's frontman was investigated by the Secret Service after a 'psychotic break'
Considering his band is behind inspirational hits like “Higher” and “With Arms Wide Open,” fans might be surprised to hear that Creed frontman Scott Stapp was investigated by the Secret Service in 2014. According to TMZ, his wife, Jaclyn Stapp, called 911 after he “claimed to be a CIA agent” whose “mission was to kill Obama.” Jaclyn reportedly told emergency dispatchers that Scott “printed out 400-600 pages of CIA documents … put them in a book bag and took off on his bike.” The Secret Service revealed to People that they were taking “appropriate action” following the report of what the outlet called a “psychotic episode.”
It looks like nothing came to be from the reports, and the next year, the musician went public with his bipolar diagnosis, according to People. “I had a psychotic break that was brought on by alcohol and drug abuse,” Scott told the outlet in a candid interview. “I was hallucinating … In my delusional thinking, I thought my family was involved in ISIS, and that millions of dollars had been taken from me to support terrorism.” The Creed singer also revealed that he was in a 12-step program, began taking medication, and added that “nothing is more important than [his] sobriety.”
Eminem was questioned by the Secret Service for lyrics in a leaked song
Eminem’s “Framed” track — off of his 2017 album, Revival — earned the controversial rapper a 40-plus page report with the Secret Service, according to BuzzFeed News. The song in question found Marshall Mathers imagining himself as being “framed” for a murder, specifically saying, “Donald Duck’s on, there’s a Tonka Truck in the yard / But dog, how the f**k is Ivanka Trump in the trunk of my car?” The files also observed that this was “not the first time Mathers made threatening comments towards POTUS,” and cited a 2017 interview with Vulture where Em said Donald Trump “makes [his] blood boil.”
The Secret Service met with the rapper in person in January 2018, per BuzzFeed News, and when agents began to quote lyrics of his raps in question, Eminem started to “rap along with the interviewers as the verse was read.” Kind of a power move, to be honest. The investigation was seemingly closed after their meeting, but that didn’t stop Eminem from referencing it on his 2018 album, Kamikaze. “‘Cause Agent Orange just sent the Secret Service / To meet in person to see if I really think of hurtin’ him,” Slim Shady raps in “The Ringer.” Sounds like he took it in stride.
The N.W.A. angered the FBI and Secret Service big time
It’s no secret that N.W.A. rocked the world with the 1988 protest track, “F**k Tha Police.” The song’s release led to the FBI and Secret Service sending the group’s record label “a certified letter informing [them] of the authorities’ displeasure with the song,” according to MTV News. The government wasn’t the only one trying to censor the song either: It was “banned from radio, public libraries, and retail chains,” per the Daily Beast. However, following the publication of their letter, the FBI was forced to clarify that they “had no intention” — or legal room — “[to suppress] N.W.A.’s art or free expression.”
If anything, authorities’ distaste for the track — which N.W.A. members Ice Cube and MC Ren said was inspired by “reality as they saw it in their neighborhood,” as MTV News put it — fueled the fire around the hot new rap group. Nearly four years later, in 1992, N.W.A.’s Straight Outta Compton album was certified double-platinum by the RIAA. It would go triple platinum in 2015 following the release of the group’s biopic by the same name … which also grossed over $200 million globally on a $28 million budget. We’d call that a happy ending for this investigation.
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