Here Are 6 of the Wildest Theories About the New York Times’ Anonymous Anti-Trump Op-Ed Writer
This week, President Donald J. Trump has been bombarded with negative publicity—not only from Bob Woodward’s soon-to-be released book, “Fear: Trump in the White House” (which paints his administration as being in a state of chaos and disarray), but also, from an anonymous op-ed that was written by an administration official and published in the New York Times on September 5. Trump is furious, denouncing the op-ed as possibly “treasonous” and demanding that the Times reveal the person’s identity (which, of course, would be a severe violation of journalistic ethics).
There has been much speculation in cable news and elsewhere about who the official might be, and a variety of theories abound. Here are six of the wildest theories about the identity of the anonymous op-ed writer, and the writer’s possible motivations.
1. Did Kellyanne Conway Write the Op-Ed?
During Trump’s presidency, no one has been a more outspoken apologist for the president than his advisor Kellyanne Conway—who can rationalize anything Trump says or does and coined the Orwellian phrase “alternative facts.” But Conway, one of the most self-serving opportunists in Washington, DC, wasn’t always a Trump supporter; the veteran GOP operative was often critical of Trump back when she was still supporting Sen. Ted Cruz’ presidential bid in 2015 and early 2016. At the end of the day, Conway’s #1 concern is herself—and CNN.com’s Chris Cillizza, in a September 6 article, speculated that Conway might have written the New York Times op-ed (Cillizza offered many other possible suspects as well).
Cillizza asserted, “Conway, a White House counselor, is someone who has survived for a very long time in the political game, and not by being dumb or not understanding which way the wind blows.” If the wind is blowing in an anti-Trump direction, according to Cillizza, Conway will act in her own interests.
2. Did Mike Pence Write the Op-Ed?
Jarrod Agen, communications director for Vice President Mike Pence, has angrily denied that Pence is the op-ed writer. On Twitter, Agen fumed, “The vice president puts his name on his op-eds. The @nytimes should be ashamed, and so should the person who wrote the false, illogical, and gutless op-ed. Our office is above such amateur acts.” But speculation that Pence is the op-ed writer has persisted.
CNN.com’s Cillizza speculated, “The vice president is all smiles, nods and quiet, deferential loyalty in public—which, of course, means that he has the perfect cover to write something like this in The New York Times. Pence is also ambitious, and there’s no question he wants to be president. But would taking such a risk as writing this scathing op-ed be a better path to the White House than just waiting Trump out?”
The op-ed uses the obscure word “lodestar,” which as Metro.co.uk’s Jane Wharton and others are noting, is a favorite word of Pence. In the Times op-ed, the late Sen. John McCain is described as “a lodestar for restoring honor to public life and our national dialogue.”
3. Did John Kelly Write the Op-Ed?
With all of the legal problems that Trump’s associates—from Paul Manafort and Rick Gates to Michael Cohen—have been caught up in, Watergate-era veteran John Dean has been a frequent guest on CNN and MSNBC, often drawing comparisons between Watergate and Russiagate/Trumpgate. When Dean was interviewed by CNN’s Don Lemon on August 5, he speculated that another John—Trump’s chief of staff John Kelly—might be the op-ed writer. And Cillizza has also speculated that Kelly could be the op-ed writer.
On CNN.com, Cillizza wrote, “The chief of staff has clashed repeatedly with the president and seems to be on borrowed time. Kelly sees his time in the job as serving his country in the only way left to him. Might he view exposing Trump in this way as a last way to be of service?”
4. Did Ivanka Trump Write the Op-Ed?
Metro.co.uk’s Wharton speculated that President Trump’s own daughter, Ivanka Trump, might have written the Times op-ed. Wharton described Ivanka Trump as “an outsider’s choice as the mole seeking to stop Trump from within his own administration,” noting that the president’s “eldest daughter publicly clashed with her father over his migration policy, saying she was vehemently opposed to family separations.”
5. Did Jeff Sessions Write the Op-Ed?
Trump’s relationship with Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been going from bad to worse. It has been widely reported that Trump plans to fire Sessions after the midterms, and according to Woodward’s new book, “Fear: Trump in the White House,” the president has mocked Sessions’ southern accent and called him “mentally retarded” and a “dumb southerner.” Speculating on why she thinks Sessions might be the op-ed writer, Wharton wrote, “The attorney general has been repeatedly rebuked by the president for recusing himself from the Russia investigation.”
6. Did President Trump Himself Write the Op-Ed?
Former Republican National Committee head Michael Steele, appearing on MSNBC’s “The 11th Hour,” jokingly told host Brian Williams, “At the end of the day, it wouldn’t surprise me if Trump wrote the op-ed. But that’s just a head game that takes us to a whole other level.” Steele’s tone became more serious, however, when he asserted that as damning as Woodward’s book is, the Times op-ed is even more damning—and that, the former RNC head stressed, is the last thing the GOP needs with the midterms only two months away.