Try to think back to the news cycle in the fall of 2018. No easy task of course. However, one loop on this endless rollercoaster of “Orange man bad” media outrage involved an “anonymous” Trump official leaking controversies and scandals within the Trump administration in the form of a New York Times op-ed.
The anonymous staffer, whom The New York Times editorial board at the times described as a “senior administration official,” was revealed just this week of October 30, 2020 as having been a thirty-year-old deputy chief of staff at Homeland Security named Miles Taylor when he published his piece.
The reveal left many scratching their heads, especially ones who gleefully had imagined that this “senior administration official” could be a loyal Trump cabinet member or even the vice president himself signaling a mutiny, not some outside agency employee who supports Dem candidate Joe Biden and has worked for anti-conservative google.
Among these gleeful media gossip queens were late night comedians from the major networks who salivated over the rumors, thinking that perhaps Trump’s chief of staff, press secretary, or even his own daughter, was trashing their beloved president behind his back.
ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel dove headfirst into the rumors during a September 2018 episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live!, hypothesizing that the “senior administration official” could be either Vice President Mike Pence or his daughter, Senior Advisor to the President, Ivanka Trump. Kimmel opened his segment, joking, “I’m surprised by how good a writer Ivanka is.”
Though the comedian seemed more preoccupied with the thought that Pence could be “anonymous,” arguing that both the writer of the op-ed and the VP use the word “lodestar.” Feeding the narrative, Kimmel played a clip of Pence using the term on several occasions. “Wouldn’t that be something if it was Mike Pence?” Kimmel wondered aloud.
CBS’ Late Night With Stephen Colbert devoted time to the segment as well. Like Kimmel, the Trump-hating Colbert proposed that Pence was the likeliest traitor because both he and “anonymous” employ the term “lodestar” in their vernacular. Colbert also attempted to add some excitement to the controversy, claiming that the op-ed “has launched a frantic guessing game,” and that “now the hunt for the author is on.”
Over on NBC, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon guessed at Pence being the perpetrator as well. During the episode from September 7, 2018, Fallon claimed, “A lot of people are trying to figure out who wrote the article, let’s pick some phrases from the piece and see if they sound like anyone in the White House.”
Fallon then showed a clip of the Vice President uttering several phrases that were found in op-ed, including again, “lodestar.”
The recent news that the “anonymous” op-ed author was not even a White House staffer or higher level Trump official but a Trump hater, really made the entire narrative fall flat. But it is, like RussiaGate or UkraineGate, a clear view into the media’s playbook on attacking Trump: Insert a vague rumor into the airwaves and opine on it or cover it so much that viewers start assuming something’s got to be true about it.
Who cares if it turned out that Miles Taylor is a nobody? For two years, people were primed to think that someone within Trump’s administration was ready to jump ship. It’s all smoke and mirrors, and it’s clear this is their modus operandi. We’re getting wise to it now.