SAUL LOEB/AFP/GETTY IMAGES; Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images
In early 2018, the US national security apparatus was flummoxed by reports that North Korea was building nuclear weapons that could reach the US or that Russia was plotting chemical weapons of mass murder in Europe. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump was busy targeting his view of the enemy of the state: late night host Jimmy Kimmel.
The then-president was so upset by Kimmel’s humorous comments, according to two former Trump administration officials, that he ordered his White House staff to call one of Disney’s top executives in Washington, D.C., to complain and demand action. instructed. (ABC, on which Jimmy Kimmel Live! has aired for a long time, owned by Disney.)
Former officials reported that in at least two separate phone calls as Trump was completing his first year in office, the White House conveyed to Disney the seriousness of their fury with Kimmel. Rolling stone, Trump staffers noted that the leader of the free world wanted the billion-dollar company to rein in the Trump-trashing ABC host, and Trump felt that Kimmel, in his characterization of a former senior administration official, was “very dishonest and were working. things that [Trump] Would have sued once.
The incident was so bizarre that news of it spread through the corridors of power in Washington, D.C. Other administration officials who had nothing to do with the pressure campaign began to hear from their contacts at Disney how confused they were that the White House was telling them Trump wanted Kimmel to tone down his anti-Trump humor.
“At least one call was made to Disney [that I know of]A third former official who served in the Trump White House recalls. spoke to sources Rolling stone on condition of anonymity to speak freely and maintain ongoing relationships in Trumpworld and conservative circles. “I don’t know who[m]But it happened. Nobody thought it was going to change anything but DJT’s focused on it so we had to do something… It was doing something, mostly to say [Trump]’Hey, we did it.'”
Rolling stone The White House was able to identify one target of the ham-fisted, destined-to-fail pressure campaign: former Disney top lobbyist Richard Bates. Sources say Trump staffers reached out to Bates to convey the president’s anger about Kimmel’s monologue and jabs. Bates, who served as a prominent Disney executive and was a Washington fixture for more than 30 years, died in December 2020.
The pressure campaign ultimately failed, but the previously unprovoked effort marked another moment in which Trump appeared eager to wield the immense powers of his office for personal gain and highly petty reasons. (In fact, one of Trump’s two impeachments resulted from this impulse.)
And now, as Trump is once again campaigning for the White House, there is no sign that his willingness to use federal power in this way has waned an inch. In a recent radio interview, the former president said he deserves a “revenge tour” if he wins the presidency in 2024, while claiming he would take advantage of the opportunity if re-elected. Will not pick up
But throughout his presidency, Trump devoted an inordinate amount of time to threatening late-night television shows and celebrities over his jokes about the famously thin-skinned former game show host.
In 2018, Trump’s FCC chairman Ajit Pai announced the agency would investigate a lewd joke late Show Host Stephen Colbert about Trump’s cozy relationship with Vladimir Putin. Trump lashes out at Colbert in an interview and calls him a “no-talent” who uses “filthy” language. But the FCC ultimately declined to take action against the late-night host, despite the president’s chagrin and viewer complaints. As the matter was being investigated, the then-president took enough interest in it to repeatedly ask for updates on whether the FCC had made a decision yet, says a source with direct knowledge of the questions. Is.
The following year, Trump directed his staff and lawyers to see whether the FCC and the Department of Justice could retaliate against late-night shows that criticized him after being hit with jokes about him. snl run again Trump, sources familiar with the matter said, suggested to the lieutenant that he (wrongly) believed that shows like Kimmel and snl violated an obscure federal rule that mandates that broadcasters allot equal time to candidates’ messages.
The Trump White House’s efforts to censor critics extended to social media as well. In 2019, Trump’s White House reached out to Twitter and demanded that the social media company remove a tweet by Chrissy Teigen calling Trump a “pussy ass bitch,” according to recent testimony from a former Twitter trust and security official.