The larger “public narrative” here is almost a year old. Since last June, Donald Trump has run a presidential campaign on bigotry, racism, sexism and frat-house insults. The show has attracted the interest and endorsement — surprise! — of white nationalist groups and figures such as David Duke, a former KKK official. At pretty much the same time, Trump has made a vocation of hammering media coverage of his candidacy, pointing with disdain at offending camera operators at his rally, calling the profession disgusting and dishonest and on and on.
These two manifestations of Trumpism intersected in Ioffe’s very own world. Her Melania Trump piece, published in late April, ventured back to the former model’s native Slovenia. It examined the life of her father, Victor Knavs, and it discovered that Melania Trump had a half-brother — a situation that Melania Trump at first denied and later said, “I’ve known about this for years.”
From there, Melania Trump blasted the story on Facebook, using at least one of the same anti-media buzzwords that her husband deploys:
The article published in GQ today is yet another example of the dishonest media and their disingenuous reporting. Julia Ioffe, a journalist who is looking to make a name for herself, clearly had an agenda when going after my family. There are numerous inaccuracies in this article including certain statements about my family and claims on personal matters. My parents are private citizens and should not be subject to Ms. Ioffe’s unfair scrutiny. Furthermore, the statement surrounding the performance of my skincare collection is completely false. The company in which I was involved with did not honor the contract and did not meet their obligations and as such the courts ruled in my favor. I am hopeful that the media will begin to cover me fairly and be respectful of my family’s privacy.
Hate site the Daily Stormer responded with a story titled, “Empress Melania Attacked by Filthy Russian Kike Julia Ioffe in GQ!” The attacks against Ioffe then started flowing over social media, email and phone. The Erik Wemple Blog cited some examples of the vileness in this post. Several of the blasts came from people who showed signs that they supported Trump. “The Trumps have a record of kind of whistling their followers into action,” the 33-year-old Ioffe told the Erik Wemple Blog. A quarter-century ago, Ioffe and her family fled anti-Semitism in Russia and moved to the United States. She has worked at the New Republic and written for the New York Times Magazine; she recently joined Politico Magazine as a contributing writer.
In an interview last week with Wolf Blitzer of CNN, Trump said, “I haven’t read the article, but I heard it was a very inaccurate article, and I heard it was a nasty article,” said Trump, showing off his intellectual independence. Speaking of Melania Trump, the candidate said, “She doesn’t need to have bad things said about her.” Pressed on the anti-Semitic threats, Trump said he didn’t know anything about the situation. “You’ll have to talk to them about it,” he told Blitzer, before ripping the press for being “dishonest.”
Purposeful ignorance, denial, insouciance: What lovely traits in a presumptive presidential nominee.
Thanks to Ioffe’s pursuit of a criminal case, we may eventually know more about the folks who threatened her. She has also enlisted the Anti-Defamation League in her quest for justice. “I can confirm that we are working with her, and we are doing some research into the individuals involved, but we do not have much else to say at this point,” said Todd Gutnick, vice president, communications, for the organization.
Ioffe herself says the police have launched their investigation and the harassment continues. She doesn’t want to say anything more. Who can blame her?
However things shake out from here, the episode reflects Trump’s unique way of making America great: A fair and thorough story on a potential first lady turns into grist for hate-driven threats. It’s quaint to think back before American started its re-transformation to greatness, when such a story would prompt merely some blowback from PR flacks and perhaps a strongly worded letter from a lawyer. Keep America crappy.
UPDATE 5/10, 9:10 a.m.: Post was updated to cite the date on which the police report was filed.