Donald Trump's thrill ride is nearly over — but the media refuses to let go

What if we told America the truth about Donald Trump? He's a fraud, a cheat and a rapist, facing 91 felony counts

By Brian Karem


Published September 28, 2023 9:19AM (EDT)

Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump speaks at the Pray Vote Stand Summit at the Omni Shoreham Hotel on September 15, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump speaks at the Pray Vote Stand Summit at the Omni Shoreham Hotel on September 15, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Longtime White House correspondent Brian Karem writes a weekly column for Salon.

This is the end, beautiful friend
This is the end, my only friend
The end of our elaborate plans
The end of everything that stands — Jim Morrison 

I take no joy in saying this, but we in the press are moral cowards.

Last Friday, former President Donald Trump called for the execution of U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, branding him a traitor. This was because Milley told his Chinese counterparts, toward the end of the Trump administration, that the U.S. was not planning to invade China and start World War III. In other words, Milley reiterated official U.S. policy since the end of World War II, which Trump is apparently unaware that we won. But forgive him: He also seems to think Jeb Bush was president.

A few days later, our actual president, Joe Biden, made history by standing on a picket line with striking UAW members in Michigan. 

We in the press didn't tell you much about that, but we wasted airtime, pixels and ink reporting that Trump calls himself "pro-worker" — though there is no evidence of that to be found anywhere. We also told you that Biden wears tennis shoes. We pretty much ignored Trump's threat against the chairman of the Joint Chiefs — who Trump himself appointed, by the way. We have also done minimal reporting on the New York judge who imposed the "corporate death penalty" on Trump's business enterprises this week and may end up confiscating Trump's property, after issuing a summary judgment that Trump's companies actively engaged in fraud over many years. 

There's a potential government shutdown coming this weekend, but that took a back seat to an outlier political poll that shows Trump leading Biden by 10 points.

Those still capable of cogent thought may well wonder: When did this country jump the shark?

Dahlia Lithwick, a member of Mary Trump's "Nerd Avengers," said on the podcast Wednesday,  "We have achieved a point where lawlessness is the goal itself." So while she may not pinpoint when we jumped, she certainly knows where we landed. This is the end, beautiful friend.

Take a look around. Who would want their children to grow up and become members of Congress? Bob Menendez, George Santos, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Jim Jordan, Lauren Boebert, Kevin McCarthy . . . the list goes on and on with people we'd abhor if we met them in everyday life. There isn't one of them I'd invite to a neighborhood barbecue. They are lawless without exception and without care. It's not just Donald Trump.

They deflect from real issues by bombarding the public with facts taken out of context and outright lies. When that doesn't work, they resort to bullying. "I'm at the point where, fine, investigate Joe Biden. Investigate Hunter Biden. But also hold Jared Kushner and Donald Trump accountable," former GOP strategist Kurt Bardella said on the same podcast. 

Bardella also said that after this week's ruling by New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron, if the press doesn't "mention fraud every time we mention Trump's name," then we're not doing our job. Mind you, Trump was also labeled as a rapist in civil court, and we rarely mention that either. We routinely ignore his 91 felony charges in four jurisdictions when we talk about his so-called politics, and we seem to have forgotten he's already been impeached twice. We pretend that his many lies are changes in policy. Anyone who expects the press to responsibly report the reality of Donald Trump at this point may, in fact, be as delusional as Trump.

And Trump is truly delusional. "Brick by brick, Donald Trump is a fantasy. He's the biggest fraud there is," political commentator Danielle Moodie told Mary Trump.

Every bit of reporting we do on him should stress that. It's not like his delusion is a secret. "We in the family knew it," Mary Trump said, explaining the fraud perpetrated by her uncle — before describing him as the greatest fraud ever perpetrated on America. 

Agreed. But don't count on the press to inform you about any of that. We're too busy pretending, and entertaining you by treating Trump as if he were a charmer, or a savior. 

If the press doesn't "mention fraud every time we mention Trump's name," then we're not doing our job. Mind you, Trump was also labeled as a rapist in civil court, and we rarely mention that either.

It isn't just the press that is filled with cowards. The Republicans in Congress are repugnant criminal cowards. The Democrats are eunuchs and moral cowards. While the Republicans pursue Hunter Biden — and if he's guilty of something, so be it — the Democrats have not said one word about Jared Kushner, Eric Trump or Donald Trump Jr. There is more than enough evidence to investigate those three for trading White House access for billions in foreign investment. Yet so far, nothing.

The Democrats don't want to look like they're gutter-fighting quite as dirty as the GOP, and seem to lack any desire to pursue obvious corruption. Thus it appears to millions of American voters, including many potential voters still on the fence, that the Bidens have the most to hide.

I cannot say it enough. We have two political parties in this country: One has no heart. One has no head.

And the press? We have neither.

So busy are we trying to pretend we're even-handed that we present propaganda as fact just to look fair. That's not our job. The moronic desire to be "objective" blinds us from our true mission: providing vetted facts. 

Exactly three years ago, I asked a simple question of Trump in the White House briefing room: Would he accept a peaceful transfer of power? Three years and 91 felony charges in four jurisdictions later, we know the answer. He continues to deny that he lost the 2020 election. He continues to obfuscate, confuse, lie and cheat. We continue to let him get away with it.

When he said to me in the White House briefing room that if we stopped counting ballots at the moment of his choosing "there would be no change" in power, that should have been enough. Hell, when he made fun of a reporter with a disability, that should have been enough. When he made fun of veterans or called dead Marines "suckers," that should have been enough. It wasn't. It's never enough, and we never doggedly pursue the facts.

Lithwick said that Trump has never been caught. I respectfully disagree: He is always getting caught in his own lies. We just allow him to go free without forcing him to take responsibility for his actions.

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Lost in a Roman wilderness of pain
And all the children are insane
All the children are insane — Jim Morrison

The rest of the insane clown posse of children in the GOP got together Wednesday night for their latest attempt to stop Trump — who won't attend a debate because he's scared s**tless. How deeply disturbing it must be to be running against Trump as a member of the Republican party.

Not only do you have to run against a seditious criminal fool, but you have to do so in an environment where he has risen far above the other candidates who, while guilty of a great deal of stupidity, are not facing 91 felony charges. That alone should give them a leg up. 

Nope. And they continued to support their near-certain standard-bearer on Wednesday night, even as they tried to run against him. Sure, there was slightly more negative treatment of him from some, like former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. But in the end, the also-rans lived up to their name.

When Donald Trump told me in the White House briefing room that if we stopped counting ballots at the moment of his choosing "there would be no change" in power — that should have been enough.

If you want to defend Trump, go ahead. Defend a man who is a fraud, a rapist and an insurrectionist. He has been impeached twice and indicted in four different jurisdictions on 91 felony charges. Don't forget he also kept classified information in his bathroom and refused to return it when asked. Defend all of that. Defend his criminality by using false equivalency and "whataboutism." Defend it all with aplomb and own it.

I won't. I was in Trump's White House every day of that administration. If you weren't, then you can stick your opinions someplace where ignorance and information are equal, like the nether regions of Trump's mind.

Donald Trump is a menace. That's not "politics." That's just a fact. 

He is facing charges because he's a dangerous would-be despot. There is no evidence any part of the electoral process was hijacked — except for the ballot boxes he tried to steal and the witnesses he desperately tried to intimidate.

Donald Trump is a traitor, a moron and a goon. If you believe he's the second coming, mind your Matthew 7:15: "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves."

The Biden White House and the Democrats have no heart for the fight they face, and no head for it either. In an attempt to avoid getting their hands dirty, they're allowing the country to bathe in Trump's filth without responding to it. We heard a rare exception from Biden this week in San Francisco when he said, "Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans are determined to destroy this democracy."

White House spokesman Andrew Base backed that up by saying that "to abuse presidential power and violate the constitutional rights of reporters would be an outrageous attack on our democracy and the rule of law." 

We need more of that and a lot less of people in my profession giving false equivalency between Trump and his GOP competitors, much less the current president. If this is the end, then let it be Trump's end — not our country's.

At the end of the day, will some of my fellow journalists grow a pair? We make decisions every day based on money and audience share, not journalism. Trump went on "Meet the Press" because he's good for ratings. We cover him as if he were equal to Biden for the same reason.

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I encourage my professional comrades to consider this: There are millions of people who will tune into the facts if we consistently deliver them. Facts are the true coin of our realm. Ratings could be had if we did our job the way we're supposed to. There is a market for solid reporting. 

Here are some facts:  Donald Trump is despotic and deranged. His politics are nothing but grift. His life is about fleecing others. We should preface every mention of him by stating that he's been indicted in four jurisdictions for 91 felonies. He's been labeled a rapist and a business cheat in civil court and he was impeached twice. 

Report that every single day. Don't tell me he's "pro-worker." He's only pro-Trump.

Late on Wednesday evening, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan told Trump that she won't recuse herself in his federal election interference case. That news, along with the New York summary judgment that could force Trump to forfeit all his real estate holdings in and around his hometown, offer the latest signs that Donald Trump's prominence on the world stage is ending. He's had a good run to ruin, and has never had to clean up any of his many expensive messes.

If he'd looked at the ticket he swindled to get on this ride, he might have seen that the bill comes due when the ride ends. It's a bitch being held accountable. Just ask your average crossroads demon.

For Trump, the accountability ride has begun, and it promises to get much darker for him than the thrill ride that preceded it. 

On that ride, anything goes and he always got what he wanted, no matter what.

But guess what? This is the end of that ride.

The West is the best
Get here and we'll do the rest
The blue bus is calling us — Jim Morrison

By Brian Karem

Brian Karem is the former senior White House correspondent for Playboy. He has covered every presidential administration since Ronald Reagan, sued Donald Trump three times successfully to keep his press pass, spent time in jail to protect a confidential source, covered wars in the Middle East and is the author of seven books. His latest is "Free the Press."

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