25 Times ‘The Atlantic’ Used Single Anonymous Sources to Smear Trump Family

President Donald Trump takes the oath of office from Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. ALEX WONG/GETTY IMAGES
ALEX WONG/GETTY IMAGES

A new article from The Atlantic, titled Ivanka Trump’s Fight for the Trump Dynasty, used single anonymous sources at least twenty-five times to smear the Trump family.

McKay Coppins, a staff writer for The Atlantic and the author of the piece, described certain instances regarding members of the Trump family and would follow it up with an unknown source known sometimes in the work as a “former aide” or a “former White House official.”

Other examples throughout the piece were even more vague, as Coppins said things like “people close to the candidate” and “people close to the family.”

A few excerpts from the piece, provided below, show examples of Coppins’ use of anonymous sources.

  1. Someone who read it later summed up the tone as “We won; fuck you.”
  2. The succession battle they described is marked by old grievances, petty rivalries—and deceptively high stakes.
  3. Trump was a teetotaler, so Don drank heavily. In his college fraternity, he developed a reputation for blacking out. “He was drinking himself into a really dark place,” said one former fraternity brother, who recalled Don breaking down in tears at a party as he talked about his father. “He hated what his dad did to his mom. For a while, he didn’t even want people to know his last name.”
  4. “People started to realize this wasn’t about Trump’s vision,” one former aide told me. “It was about Ivanka’s ability to feel comfortable in her New York circle.”
  5. Rumors swirled that a state-level staffer had been fired after displeasing Ivanka. True or not—a spokesperson for Ivanka declined to comment—the story reinforced an impression that the candidate’s favorite child was untouchable. “It all felt very Tudor,” said the former aide. “Aside from whispers in the bathroom, nobody would dare say anything bad about Ivanka. It was the kind of thing that would get you tarred and feathered.”
  6. Yet when Don offered to help his father’s campaign, many of the tasks he received had a whiff of condescension. Trump had always been embarrassed by his son’s hunting, especially after photos emerged in 2012 of Don posing with the severed tail of an elephant he’d slain in Zimbabwe. But now that the candidate was wooing rural Republicans, he was happy to let Don put on that goofy orange vest and shoot at stuff for the cameras. “You can finally do something for me,” Trump told Don, according to a former aide.
  7. “The brothers thought Jared was a yes-man,” said a former Trump adviser. “Don, especially, looked at him as very suspect.”
  8. “The Trump Tower meeting was Don’s move to take over the campaign,” a former aide told me. “He was trying to show his father he was competent.” (The spokesperson for Don said: “More fiction.”)
  9. “I just wake up in the morning and go to whatever city they tell me to,” Don complained during one trip, according to a travel companion. “Jared’s the smart one. He has it all figured out.”
  10. “Going back to doing deals is boring,” he reportedly told a gathering of gun enthusiasts. “The politics bug bit me.”
  11. Now that he had a chance to prove himself, Eric planned to exploit every opportunity. “The stars have aligned,” he proclaimed. “Our brand is the hottest it has ever been.”
  12. Ivanka, who knew the order would be seen as anti-LGBTQ, enlisted Tim Cook—the gay Apple CEO, whose respect her father craved—to lobby Trump against signing it, according to a former White House aide.
  13. Their efforts to change his mind about the Paris climate accord exasperated the president, who took to mocking their arguments when they weren’t around. “They’re New York liberals,” he would say, according to a former White House aide. “Of course that’s what they think.”
  14. A news story about Jared using a private email server to conduct government business prompted a presidential meltdown in the Oval Office. “How could he be so stupid?” Trump fumed, according to a White House official who was present. “That’s what Hillary did!”
  15. Watching cable news coverage of the fiasco from the West Wing, Trump shook his head wearily. “He wasn’t angry at Don,” a former White House official recalled. “It was more like he was resigned to his son’s idiocy.” “He’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer,” Trump said with a sigh.
  16. In an episode last year, Don answered questions about the Russia investigation while Eric ate Play-Doh. Real-life Don seems to delight in these sketches, and has even publicly volunteered to come on the show to play himself. But within the Trump family, associates say, the brothers’ roles are exactly reversed.
  17. In fact, no one in the first family took Don’s political ideas seriously, least of all Jared and Ivanka. “You never heard them say, ‘We’ve got to get Don Jr.’s opinion on this,’ ” a former White House official told me.
  18. Instead, his father had put his faith in a timid preppy. When photos were released of Jared in Iraq in the spring of 2017, sporting a flak jacket over his oxford shirt and blazer, Don spent the afternoon trading gleeful text messages with friends about the Martha’s Vineyard–meets–Mosul getup.
  19. One source told me that after her attendance at a White House Fourth of July party sparked a round of fawning press coverage—upstaging Jared and Ivanka—Don was contacted by an official informing him that he would need to clear his guests the next time he visited.
  20. But according to one longtime Trump adviser, there may have been another reason for his displeasure. Over the years, Trump had frequently made suggestive comments about Guilfoyle’s attractiveness, the adviser told me, and more than once inquired about whom she was dating.
  21. Ivanka’s camp was enraged, and suspected that Don was behind the story. Later, Don confronted Ivanka over rumors that her team was undermining him in off-the-record conversations with reporters. “Tell your people to stop trashing me to the media,” he said, according to someone familiar with the conversation.
  22. But within the president’s orbit, there was a growing sense that his sons were driving the company into the ground.
  23. According to a former White House aide, Trump talked about the issue so often that administration officials worried he would get himself in trouble trying to run the Trump Organization from the Oval Office.
  24. While Don mulled his options, some allies talked him up as a potential chairman of the Republican National Committee. Others suggested he launch a right-wing political outfit that would allow him to hold rallies and bestow endorsements.
  25. ‘During a family gathering at the White House, Trump was overheard questioning Don about whether he’d been using the company plane while shirking his day job. A Republican senator in the room intervened to say that without Don’s work on the campaign trail, the party might not have kept its Senate majority. Trump seemed pleased: “I believe it.”

Andrew Surabian, a former White House strategist and current spokesman for Donald Trump Jr., called out The Atlantic, its editor in chief, and Coppins on Monday after what he considers a “false and thinly sourced piece” was released. He also questioned why The Atlantic refused to publish his statement on the article.

“Why did @TheAtlantic refuse to print my on the record statement on behalf of Don Jr. in response to @mckaycoppins‘ false & thinly sourced piece,” Surabian questioned in a tweet, which included his unpublished statement to The Atlantic.

“I’ve counted 25 instances of single sourcing or worse throughout McKay’s piece,” Surabian added before asking the publication’s editor in chief, Jeffrey Goldberg, if that is “what you call journalism.”

In a tweet shared to his account, former Trump aide Steven Cheung also weighed in on the piece and said Coppins has “thin sourcing standards.”

“This is a perfect example of @Mckaycoppins’ thin sourcing standards,” Cheung wrote as he targeted the author of the piece.

“Notice what’s missing from McKay’s anecdote below,” Cheung asked rhetorically. “ANY ATTEMPT TO SOURCE IT TO SOMEONE, EVEN ANONYMOUSLY.”

“How does @TheAtlantic print anecdotes like this without even attempting to source it to someone,” Cheung added.

Follow Kyle on Twitter @RealKyleMorris and Facebook.

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