Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show” and a columnist for The Daily Beast. Follow him @DeanObeidallah. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. Read more opinion on CNN.
After everything Donald Trump has done – from his seemingly open embrace of bigotry to his failed handling of Covid-19 (which polls show most Americans were critical of) to his efforts to thwart democracy – it’s hard to believe that anything could siphon off the support of the former President’s die-hard acolytes.
But a new editorial published by the New York Post, “Trump’s silence on Jan. 6 is damning,” should worry him, given the newspaper’s reach with a loyal pro-Trump audience and its status as one of the crown jewels of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire.
The conservative-leaning daily is not some random anti-MAGA publication; rather it gave Trump a full-throated endorsement when he ran for reelection in 2020 while saying a Joe Biden administration “would be beholden to a socialist left.”
The New York Post is a tabloid that reaches Trump voters where they are. The newspaper, founded in 1801 by Alexander Hamilton, has a reputation of appealing to working-class readers. In 2021, the Post described itself as the sixth-largest newspaper in the United States, saying more than 80 million people read its online content each month.
One thing about the New York Post that should concern Trump is something from his own playbook: It doesn’t hold back when it slams people – even someone like the ex-President whom it once championed. The paper is known for using clear, direct language and powerful framing – and that’s exactly what it deployed in its editorial crushing Trump. The editorial began:
“As his followers stormed the Capitol, calling for his vice president to be hanged, President Donald Trump sat in his private dining room, watching TV, doing nothing.
“For three hours, seven minutes.”
The Post spelled out the time in hours – instead of saying “187 minutes” the way lawmakers did at Thursday’s House committee hearing – to delineate more clearly the amount of time that elapsed from the moment Trump ended his speech on January 6 to when he finally released a video at 4:17 p.m. urging his supporters to go home.
Putting it mildly, “three hours, seven minutes” sounds far longer than 187 minutes – the increment of time that most in the political world and the media use to measure Trump’s inaction – and the Post gets that.
From there, the editorial got worse for Trump. In its stinging rebuke, it emphasized that Trump was the only person who could have stopped his angry supporters, but he only made matters worse.
“To his eternal shame, as appalled aides implored him to publicly call on his followers to go home, he instead further fanned the flames” by tweeting that his vice president, Mike Pence, didn’t have the “courage” to block the congressional certification of Biden’s Electoral College win.
The Post wrote that Trump’s indefensible objective through all of this was “to find any means – damn the consequences – to block the peaceful transfer of power.” Pointing out that the Justice Department must decide about possible criminal behavior, the newspaper’s editorial board concluded that “as a matter of principle, as a matter of character, Trump has proven himself unworthy to be this country’s chief executive again.”
That assessment alone would be troubling for the former President who is reported to be poised to announce plans soon to launch a 2024 election bid to reclaim his old job. But shortly after the New York Post published its piece, the editorial board of another Murdoch publication, The Wall Street Journal, also slammed Trump in an editorial titled “The President Who Stood Still on Jan. 6.”
The Journal wrote that, of all the condemnable behavior by Trump presented by the January 6 committee over the past several weeks, “most horrifying” was witnesses describing how “as the riot raged … he sat watching TV, posting inflammatory tweets and refusing to send help.”
These editorials align with the chilling story painted by the January 6 committee of a President refusing to act as his supporters brutally beat officers and lay siege to the seat of our nation’s legislature. Trump made no calls to law enforcement or to the National Guard, the committee said. He didn’t convene his staff to figure out ways to stop the attack. He didn’t immediately release a video demanding his supporters go home – despite pleas from a host of his advisers and Washington officials that he do just that, including his White House counsel and daughter Ivanka.
No, he watched the attack unfold on television for hours.
Common sense tells us that if Trump were at all troubled by the attacks waged by his supporters, he would have used his immense power as President to stop them. There’s no “other side” to this story. No ambiguity. In fact, even in his flurry of online posts after Thursday’s hearing – although he attacked various participants from the hearing – he did not push back against the charge that he sat on his hands during the attack.
One thing is perfectly clear at this point: people either support Donald Trump or they support the United States of America. There’s no overlap. Even the formerly Trump-loving New York Post is telling us that the ex-President’s behavior that day cannot be defended.