It’s like The Twilight Zone in Palm Beach: a man whose greatest desire in life is relevancy grows more irrelevant each time he opens his mouth. And he can’t shut up.
Such is the pickle that Donald Trump—de-platformed but logorrheic as ever—finds himself in. This week, a day before Facebook re-instituted its ban of his account, Trump rolled out a new blog on his Web site, a dumping ground for the erratic press releases he’s been beaming out since leaving office. Will anyone care? For five years his every utterance was A1-worthy; now he can’t even make the papers when he dials into Fox News. He called Mitch McConnell a “dumb son of a bitch” to a roomful of donors and couldn’t scrape more than half a news cycle out of it. Trump is a Gloria Gaynor record at Comiskey Park in 1979—nobody wants to hear it.
“It’s the supernova effect,” says tabloid archivist Matt James, who runs the popular Instagram account @popculturediedin2009. “You burn so bright that you automatically fade to black. It’s a phenomenon you saw with O. J. Simpson. During his trial, O.J. was the most famous person in the world. Even though his life was on the line, he relished that attention. After the verdict, he was nothing. Within a few months, by early 1996, he was reduced to calling radio stations to lash out at critics like Dominick Dunne.”
Trump is a Gloria Gaynor record at Comiskey Park in 1979—nobody wants to hear it.
In the modern era, the loophole that can mitigate a total fade to black is social media and the built-in audience it provides. Trump lost all that, and so the insurrection attempt may become for him what the murder trial was for O.J.—the outrageous finale before the show gets canceled. While Trump still has a grip on Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill, as evidenced by the party’s desire to purge Liz Cheney, the rest of the world seems to have moved on.
Now Trump craves the straight press more than ever, which may be why he’s welcomed a conga line of reporters into his Xanadu, granting long interviews for books being written about his time in office. (One reporter who is Mar-a-Lago non grata, according to a report in Politico Playbook, is Bob Woodward.) Several journalists described Trump’s mood as depressed, while others said he was liberated; all remarked that he’d lost a lot of weight.
Some publicity wizards see a familiar playbook in Trump’s attention-whoring. “He is acting like a porn company circa 2013,” says Matt Yanofsky, who created Pornhub’s early marketing stunts and now works with adult-film stars, rappers, and sports players. He pointed to a new Cameo-like feature on Trump’s Web site that allows fans to “request a greeting.”
“Trump is offering to appear at your event the way you can pay a porn star or rapper to show up at your bachelor party,” says Yanofsky. “Also Trump having a surrogate come out to comment on Meghan Markle is the same way Vivid would comment on the most random events just to have their name mentioned,” he adds, referring to the porn production company. “Trump is resorting to stunts because social media banned him, as they have previously barred many adult stars. Many outlets for now won’t cover him and give the attention he sought. So Trump must stunt.”
Several journalists described Trump’s mood as depressed, while others said he was liberated; all remarked that he’d lost a lot of weight.
Mitchell Jackson, a Los Angeles–based publicist who got Penthouse coverage on MSNBC and in Vogue, says that “Trump sending out ridiculous press releases constantly, often unconnected to anything, is the way you see a lot of these porn publicists do it.” Trump’s many press releases, which he has described as “elegant,” range from attacking LeBron James and Dr. Fauci to weighing in on the Afghanistan pullout, the Matt Gaetz imbroglio, and the death of Prince Philip.
Brian Gross, a top porn publicist who has represented Sasha Grey (The Girlfriend Experience) and Nina Hartley (Mommy Blows Best) and who is known for his mass e-mail blasts, says comparing Trump to the adult-film industry “is actually insulting to current porn stars, whether young or old. They still have so much opportunity to get involved in so many different businesses and create a fresh start, unlike the former POTUS.”
“Trump is offering to appear at your event the way you can pay a porn star or rapper to show up at your bachelor party.”
Jackson says that Trump reminds him “much more of Jenna Jameson than a modern porn star, because Jenna is bitter and mean, and she does weird things to get press that don’t even make sense. He reminds me of Tila Tequila too. You don’t meet many modern porn stars who are bitter like that—they have OnlyFans money. They’re not bitter.” (Indeed, Gross says that since the new stimulus plan was passed, his stable of performers have been rolling in the Biden Stimulus Bucks on OnlyFans.)
Adult-film star Siri Dahl says that although the experience of being de-platformed is all too familiar in her industry, it can’t be compared to the way 45 was 86’d. “With Trump, I see it as fundamentally different,” she says. “He’s not a part of a marginalized group who’s being targeted because he’s part of that group. He’s a piece of shit who says racist things and started an insurrection.”
And yet Trump’s naked attempts to redirect the klieg lights onto himself once more might eventually connect. Cable-news ratings are in a glorious free fall, and though the Washington press corps is enjoying having its weekends free again, the tedium of the Biden era could soon be too much to bear. As one dejected-sounding reporter who made a name chronicling Trump recently remarked: “I just went from covering a coup that was planned over meatballs to writing about the House Progressive Caucus.”
On Friday, Trump aide Jason Miller told Axios that the ex-president could begin throwing rallies “as soon as late spring or early summer.”
“Love or hate Trump, he’s consistently found ways to be in the spotlight for decades, and parlaying that into the presidency was the ultimate P.R. stunt,” says Yanofsky. “Now he has the ex-president moniker attached to his name whenever he’s stunting out in Palm Beach.”
Shawn McCreesh is a Washington, D.C.–based writer