I know more than a few people who would probably like to punch Cole Bartiromo in the face. So seeing him on the cover of the New York Post last week, wearing a Donald Trump T-shirt and his face bloodied, looked about right.
Now the 31-year-old Costa Mesa media darling and Internet rabble rouser with an infamous past is hoping to turn a moment of pain into a job in the Trump administration. At the very least he’d like Trump to pay his medical bills. He’d even settle for a picture and a free hat.
On April 28, according to Bartiromo—a lifelong admirer of millionaires and lover of money (more on that later)—he had been taking photos of the hubbub outside the Costa Mesa, California, rally. He didn’t think he could get in, but no matter, Bartiromo was enjoying the back and forth between the two camps: Latinos with anti-hate messages, and posterboard drawings of Trump imagined as a steaming pile of poo, yelled across a barricade of horse-mounted sheriff’s officers at flag-clad Trump supporters. Off to one side, semi-nude Free-The-Nipple activists protested about something or other.
In some kind of Trumpian miracle, Bartiromo managed to flow with the stream of supporters and media into the packed amphitheater. He heard his mentor speak, and afterward, jumped over rows of seats to get a $500 bill signed by The Donald himself. It was a good day.
But leaving wasn’t as easy. Protesters had stopped traffic. News reports show some of the demonstrators turned violent—breaking car windows, trying to overturn squad cars, doing doughnuts with their vehicles in parking lots full of people, throwing rocks at police. Ten men and seven women would be arrested for failing to disperse, according to the Costa Mesa Police Department.
Bartiromo had been waiting an hour, he says, and he was angry. Seemed like a fine time to follow through on his intention of “confronting the protesters that are ruining America with their PC robot script culture & welfare existence,” according to a Facebook status posted before the rally. He got out of his car and told the assembled, “Get out of the fucking road.”
He asked about their purpose and priorities in life. “You don’t recognize the opportunity you had to listen to a billionaire businessman tonight, so what is your priority? Collecting welfare? Partying? Not paying taxes? Sending money out of the U.S. and stimulating the Mexico economy instead?”
At some point, one of the protestors (a woman, he says) ripped his newly-signed Make America Great Again™ from his head. When he lunged to retrieve it, he got punched. Hard. “You’re in the wrong place,” a protester can be heard saying following the assault.
Baritromo’s bloodied face was the stuff of 11 o’clock local newscasts. Soon, Inside Edition and Fox News came calling. (Baritromo was set to appear on Judge Pirro’s show, but his booking was canceled at the last minute.)
And then came the backlash. Far-left sites wrote that Bartiromo “got what he deserved” and combed his social media profiles for his most insulting and aggressive posts—a deep well from which to draw—including one from 2015 that railed against ISIS and extremists who attack Christians.
Bartiromo is arguably one of Trump’s biggest supporters, spending nights individually writing to hundreds of people who comment on Facebook news articles against the Republican overlord-to-be, in the interest of setting them straight and debunking Trump myths. But like the presumptive nominee himself, Bartiromo has offended almost everyone at one time or another: the government, law enforcement officials, financial investors, customers, journalists, children, women, and people with an Internet connection.
I met Bartiromo in 2014, while writing a profile of him and his blog, Newsball, a site dedicated to investigative crime reporting with the motto, “Censorship is bullshit.” In the spirit of that aphorism, Bartiromo’s articles exposed figures in the news whose identities had been omitted or blurred by mainstream media reporters. Gory images of violent deaths, kid victims and criminals, innocent people tangentially tied to newsmakers, even rape victims, all was fair game for Bartiromo and his blog.
He had a past himself. In 2005, when he was 15, the Securities and Exchange Commission labeled him a teenage mastermind for a penny stock pump-and-dump scheme that netted $90,000. In his senior year of high school, when he wasn’t pitching on the baseball team, he ran a million-dollar Ponzi scheme. Because of his age—and perhaps his charm—Bartiromo evaded punishment for years, but his affinity for get-rich-quick schemes and his ability to piss off government agencies and judges finally caught up with him and he served a few years in prison. When Bartiromo—now a felon—got out, he was broke, but with a multimillion-dollar SEC bill and the IRS hungry to collect on his perceived gains.
“What works against Mr. Bartiromo is his personality,” one of his attorneys once explained. “He’s very high energy, very passionate, very glib; and he puts his foot down on the gas perhaps faster than he should… It turns people against him.”
And so, perhaps predictably for a man like this, Bartiromo has found himself in the center of the news once again in Donald Trump’s brave new world—and he plans on capitalizing on it.
Appearances on Dateline and The Dr. Phil Show legitimized his methods in 2014, but just as quickly as his star began to rise, Bartiromo seemingly got bored, or wasn’t making enough money and he stopped publishing on Newsball. He found work with a cellphone charger startup, overseeing a project to artificially boost Amazon reviews, using similar—but legal—methods to pump up stocks that he had employed in his teen-swindler days.
But he’s done with all that now. Fueled by Trump’s political momentum, Bartiromo says he quit his 9-to-5 gig and plans to dedicate all his time to Newsball once again—when he’s not at rallies, that is.
“Trump’s fight against political correctness, standing up against bully groups that try to silence him with protests & financial loss of sponsorships & business deals, & other traits of his—is a manifestation of everything that NEWSBALL has been about from DAY 1 since 2014—NON PC, UNFILTERED, UNCENSORED, ROGUE RAW REPORTING !!!! NewsBall is now more determined than ever to rise & become a permanent presence in the news industry,” Bartiromo wrote on his blog announcing his return.
Bartiromo plans to take his show on the road, and attend all of Trump’s rallies in New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada, carrying a sign of two photos he took at the Costa Mesa rally: his own bloodied face juxtaposed with Trump’s duck-lipped reaction to Bartiromo handing him the $500 bill.
“Hopefully, I can get him to sign my $1,000 bill, get a picture with him, and who knows, maybe he will hire me to work on the staff?” Bartiromo told me. “Because no one works harder and is more determined than I am. Maybe even get a cool interview with him for NewsBall.com.”
Trump has been known to reach out to supporters whose devotion to the presidential hopeful has gotten them into trouble, including directing his staff to look into paying the legal fees of a white man who sucker-punched a black Trump protester at a rally in North Carolina. He’s since distanced himself from such an offer.
But a Trump supporter? Punched for exercising his right to freely speak? Surely, that’s a person Trump can get behind.
A request for comment from the Trump campaign was not returned.
While he waits for Trump’s call, Bartiromo will be blogging. When we last spoke, he was planning on an article doxxing the girl in Steubenville, Ohio, who was raped by two football players when she was 16 years old.
“It’s definitely the most controversial article I could write,” he told me excitedly at the time. Right now, he’s not so sure it’s a good idea.
“I am like Trump in the primaries. Now he is toning it down because he found success.”