GQ and other lifestyle magazines grapple with flubbed Trump coverage
Pick up the November issue of GQ and you may think you’ve landed in an alternate universe — one in which Donald Trump lost the election. While many in the media disavowed Trump via endorsements in favor of his opponent Hillary Clinton or sharply penned editor’s letters, GQ went a step further.
The issue, which features Russell Westbrook on the cover, includes a letter from editor in chief Jim Nelson entitled “Hack Trump,” which forecasted a Trump loss.
Nelson predicted that after Nov. 8, “Donald Trump will go. But he will not go easy.”
The editor expounded on that thought: “The good news: He will lose this election badly, by which I mean poorly. Exceedingly poorly. … Donald Trump is the enemy of the people.” (The letter still appears online, unchanged and without a postscript).
While most publications endorsed rival Clinton (and to be fair, almost no one in establishment media expected the inflammatory Trump to win), GQ’s prediction was bolder than most — an unusual move for a lifestyle magazine, unless there’s a medium on staff writing horoscopes.
To make matters worse, GQ also ran a feature and coverline in the same issue, which read: “Trump’s Secret Plans Revealed! It’s Gonna Be So Much Better Than Being President.” The assumption, shared by many journalists, was that Trump would lose and start a media company with ex-Fox News boss Roger Ailes and Breitbart’s Steve Bannon, who worked as his campaign ceo.
That may be Trump’s third act, after he and the controversial Bannon, now his chief strategist, move into the White House.
GQ wasn’t alone in it sentiment. Especially noteworthy was Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour‘s role in holding fund-raisers for Clinton while her magazine endorsed and advocated for Clinton.
And in the days leading up to the election, New York magazine ran a Trump cover with the word “Loser” written across his face. The Oct. 31 cover accompanies a story by Gabriel Sherman that portrays campaign staffers pondering their next acts after an inevitable loss.
A week later and the world changed. And while it wasn’t quite “Dewey Defeats Truman,” New York back peddled somewhat on its cover, which was produced by Barbara Kruger.
“We, and Kruger, had always intended for our cover to convey multiple meanings: certainly that Trump was running behind, but also that America itself was losing, dragged down into a filthy dumb-show campaign,” New York said.
Meanwhile at Vanity Fair, longtime editor in chief and even longer-time Trump critic Graydon Carter, didn’t make the bold prediction that GQ’s Nelson did, but he teetered that line, while throwing in a few well-written jabs.
“He is a mad jumble of a man, with a slapdash of a campaign and talking points dredged from the dark corners at the bottom of the Internet. I don’t think he will get to the White House, but just the fact that his carny act has gotten so far along the road will leave the path with a permanent orange stain,” Carter said in his November editor’s letter. “Trump, more than even the most craven politicians or entertainers, is a bottomless reservoir of need and desire for attention. He lives off crowd approval. And at a certain point that will dim, as it always does to people like him, and the cameras will turn to some other American novelty. When that attention wanes, he will be left with his press clippings, his dyed hair, his fake tan and those tiny, tiny fingers.”
That last part may turn out to hold water. Carter could not be reached to comment on the rest.