I thought the story of having your life ruined by Donald Trump might resonate with readers, but I had no idea just how much Lisa Page’s words would penetrate the sea of internet content. My goal was simple: show the human cost of Trumpism. I knew about the tweets and the chants and the bullying, but I didn’t know anything about the woman who was subjected to them or how she survived the experience. I wanted to know what it was like to be constantly targeted by the most powerful man in America.
Page was hoping to get out of the spotlight. Unlike everyone else in the world, she didn’t want to be famous. But I implored her. I knew Trumpworld and its various propaganda arms were controlling the narrative, and that seemed extremely unfair to me. Lisa’s story had only been told through the lenses of MAGA-world, by the president’s propagandists, by the Sean Hannitys and the Tucker Carlsons. I wanted Lisa to have her turn to tell her story.
We weren’t completely ready for what followed after The Daily Beast published the story. The 3,800 words told her story in a way that resonated. It got over 2 million page views. And perhaps most importantly (to me), Lisa was happy with the way I told her story. After all, this wasn’t a normal interview. This was a genuinely endangered woman trusting me with her story, a story that had been distorted endlessly by the defenders of the president of the United States.
While much of the feedback I received was incredibly kind, I did also receive a fair amount of criticism, both in good and bad faith. The bad-faith criticism was the most fun. My favorite bit of bad-faith criticism was from a man once described by comedian Jordan Carlos as “so stupid that if he looked up in a rainstorm he would drown”—Brian Kilmeade of Fox & Friends. I couldn’t even believe my luck. It was one of the most truly beautiful moments of my life, having my journalistic chops questioned by the guy who once tried to roast a marshmallow with his bare hands. The intrepid Kilmeade was deeply troubled. He wanted to know why I didn’t ask Page, “Where is this professor that started this whole thing? Where is the ambassador that meets him by chance in a bar? This goes back into it. And there’s no follow-up question from the Daily Beast reporter.” I’ll tell you why: Because it’s propaganda, not truth.
And then there was Sean Hannity, who offered to "educate the journalists (I think he means me!) and the so-called mob in the media." Male Fox News anchors and execs don’t have the best record when it comes to “alone time” with women. Think of Bill O’Reilly, Eric Bolling and Roger Ailes. But my favorite thoughts came from Tucker Carlson’s white power hour, where I was described as “an anti-Trump journalist who often mocks the president on Twitter.” If Tucker Carlson is mad at you, you’re probably doing something right. And then there was Greg Gutfeld on The Five, who mused about how this story was a well-timed deep-state conspiracy. Wut?
And then there was the criticism Lisa received. I won’t address most of it because that’s for her to do, if she wants to. But I will address the president’s chief propagandist, Kellyanne Conway, who said, “I actually think that she feels really sorry for herself.” It was the kind of thing Conway loves to say, the kind of victim-blaming that Trump’s female protectors relish. But it’s bullshit.
Lisa Page is a casualty. She is not a victim. She is a survivor of Trumpworld. She survived the relentless attacks. She survived “the most wrong thing I've ever done in my life becom[ing] public.” If it had been me, I probably would have felt incredibly victimized by the president of the United States, but she’s extraordinary resilient. Page doesn’t consider herself a victim. She considers herself a casualty, just like Marie Yovanovitch, E. Jean Carroll, Megyn Kelly and all the other women the president uses as cannon fodder in his endless war against women.
The Trump autocracy runs on ruined lives, on lifetime government servants who’ve served their country honorably used as punchlines, as throwaways by the president’s propaganda machine endlessly violated again and again. In some ways, Lisa Page’s story echoes that of all the women the president has sexually assaulted. Her life has been vandalized by the right-wing media with the hopes of distracting from the president’s numerous malfeasances.
The president is at war with the institutions that make America great. He is using these people in the hopes of cooling the FBI, and the CIA and DOJ, so that no one will stop him from committing crimes. Trump is trying to intimidate government employees from doing their jobs.
I was happy to tell Lisa’s story to talk about the human cost of Trumpism. But honestly, I wish there hadn’t been a story to tell. So does she.