Media outlets have been gushing this week over the fact that megastar Taylor Swift sent flowers and a fan letter to Don McLean after breaking the Camden singer’s record for the longest song to hit No. 1 on the pop charts. Her single “All Too Well” clocks in at 10 minutes, 30 seconds, while McLean’s “American Pie” runs 8 minutes, 36 seconds.

The news – prompted by a Twitter post from McLean – has been reported by Billboard, Entertainment Weekly, People, ABC’s “Good Morning America” and “Entertainment Tonight,” among others, as a feel-good moment. Very few of the reports mentioned McLean’s guilty plea in a 2016 domestic violence case involving his then-wife, Patrisha McLean, that has been highlighted in her advocacy campaign, or that his daughter accused of him of years of emotional abuse in a Rolling Stone interview in June.

Swift’s gesture and the fact that entertainment news outlets ignored McLean’s court record and allegations by his family show the influence that “American Pie,” his massive 1971 hit, continues to have in the arts and entertainment world. It also strongly suggests that many fans, media and others are unaware of McLean’s recent past.

However, there are some recent examples of groups that were ready to promote or praise McLean, 76, until they were faced with the news of his domestic violence case. In 2019, the student alumni association of the University of California announced it would present McLean with a lifetime achievement award. But a few hours after learning from a reporter about McLean’s arrest and guilty plea, the association rescinded the honor.

In June, Backbeat Books announced it had canceled the fall publication of a children’s book based on “American Pie.” The decision was announced around the same time that Jackie McLean – McLean’s daughter – accused him of a lifetime of mental abuse in the Rolling Stone interview.

Don McLean was arrested for suspicion of domestic violence against Patrisha McLean at the couple’s home in Camden in 2016. He faced six charges, including domestic violence assault. He pleaded guilty to four charges and paid a $3,660 fine in 2017. The domestic assault charge was dismissed a year later. McLean, who also came to financial terms with his ex-wife, agreeing to a divorce settlement worth $10 million, said he pleaded guilty to settle the case.


Swift’s gesture toward McLean became public Wednesday, after McLean’s tweet that included pictures of the flowers and hand-written note from Swift saying “your music has been so important to me” and signed “your fan Taylor.”

In a phone interview on Friday, Patrisha McLean, who founded the nonprofit organization Finding Our Voices that is dedicated to ending domestic abuse, called the gesture “quite the knockout punch”

“You sent the bouquet of flowers and love note to the wrong person,” Patrisha McLean said, directing her message to Swift. “An icon of girl-women-empowerment as yourself needs to be supporting domestic abuse victims, and not perpetrators.”

Spokespeople for neither Swift nor Don McLean returned messages on Friday.

Jackie McLean, who also is a musician, had made the accusations about her father in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine around the release of her band Roan Yellowthorn’s second album, “Another Life.” On the album she also also wrote about abuse she endured in childhood.

“Does she not read Rolling Stone?” Patrisha McLean said of Swift. “Did she not read what my daughter said about him? Does she not know how to use Google?”

Jackie McLean did not respond to an email on Friday seeking reaction to Swift’s gesture.

Along with the pictures he tweeted Wednesday, McLean wrote, “What a classy artist! Thank you @taylorswift13 for the flowers & note!”

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