The New York Post’s intentionally buried headline this week—“Florida Man Makes Announcement”—is receiving a lot of praise for its skillful trolling of former President Donald Trump. In case you missed it, the very brief blurb that didn’t even take up an entire column of a newspaper page included lines such as: “With just 720 days to go before the next election, a Florida retiree made the surprise announcement that he was running for president.”
I’m a fan of this genre (hats off to the Queens Daily Eagle, who started with the “Queens Man Does X” headline trend). Since there’s no danger of goading him into another run for president (that horse is out of the barn), and since only an idiot would actually underestimate his chances of winning again, mockery and dismissiveness of this serial loser don’t have much of a downside. The famously dour Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is even getting in on the act—dismissing Trump’s childish taunts the way an important businessman might shoo away a naughty child. I’m loving it.
But here’s what bothers me: The New York Post is doing all of this without any self-awareness, any “my bad” acknowledgements, or any reckoning with its change of mind or past complicity. There’s no acknowledgement that Never Trumpers were right all along about Orange Julius. Instead, the Post seems to be memory-holing the last seven years.
Keep in mind, The Post endorsed Trump in the 2016 New York Republican primary, writing that he was “A plain-talking entrepreneur with outer-borough, common-sense sensibilities…who reflects the best of ‘New York values’—and offers the best hope for all Americans who rightly feel betrayed by the political class.”
One impeachment (and lots of craziness) later, the Post endorsed Trump again in 2020, writing: “The media are enormously fixated on Trump’s tweets and extemporaneous remarks, never learning the lesson that most of the time, he is just riffing. In endorsing him, we’re choosing to focus on President Trump’s actions and accomplishments. He has kept his promises.”
Then, just before the election, the Post published an opinion column saying Trump “will be an invincible hero, who not only survived every dirty trick the Democrats threw at him, but the Chinese virus as well.”
And for decades before Trump entered politics, no media outlet was more instrumental in creating the myth of Trump as a fascinating business savant than the Post, which used him as an anonymous source in countless gossip stories and covered his every “scandal” on the front page (which he absolutely loved).
In fairness, the Post turned on Trump after he lost in 2020 (and nearly tore this country in half rather than accepting his defeat), telling him to “give it up.” That deserves an asterisk, but condemning an attempted coup is a low bar for a media outlet founded by Alexander Hamilton.
But the Post has turned up the heat in recent days, and they are merely one of Rupert Murdoch’s outlets to have moved in a similar trajectory since the 2022 midterms, which suggests that these are not spontaneous, local, or organic decisions.
Just as The Wall Street Journal and Fox News (both owned by Murdoch and both exhibited strong early resistance to Trump’s takeover of the GOP) all seemed to get the memo that you had to be on Team Trump if you wanted to keep your gig after he won the Republican nomination in 2016, it seems that these outlets (and many of their employees) are now slowly moving away from Trump and embracing DeSantis. Can we trust individuals and organizations who vacillate like this? You have to wonder whether people who embraced Trump under duress, only to then kick him when he’s down, won’t fall back in line if his nomination seems inevitable.
“…no media outlet was more instrumental in creating the myth of Trump as a fascinating business savant than the Post, which used him as an anonymous source in countless gossip stories and covered his every ‘scandal’ on the front page (which he absolutely loved).”
This phenomenon is happening outside the Murdoch empire, too. The Club for Growth, a fiscal conservative organization, was vehemently anti-Trump (I used to speak at their conferences during this era), only to change course and completely bow to him. Now they have released a poll showing that DeSantis is beating Trump.
Likewise, National Review famously published its “Against Trump” cover in 2016, only to have many of the writers featured in that edition subsequently embrace Trump. The latest NR editorial, simply titled, “No.” begins with this sentence: “To paraphrase Voltaire after he attended an orgy, once was an experiment, twice would be perverse.”
Nominating Trump again would be perverse. But outside of NR and a select few other conservative outlets, perversity is the business model for a lot of right-wing media these days.
Still, I don’t want to discourage potential allies. If we are ever going to take back the conservative movement and the Republican Party from the forces of MAGA, the first step must be stopping Trump. And this experiment—as Voltaire might appreciate—is bound to require some flexible positions and strange bedfellows.
My message to the New York Post and other potential conservative allies is this: It would help the cause if you admitted that you were wrong and that non-MAGA Never Trumpers were right.
Regardless of your decision, I’m glad you’re here. You can quote me on this: “New York Tabloid Is Better Late Than Never.”