President Donald Trump is now campaigning as a warrior against what he says is a left-wing “cancel culture” that seeks to get people punished or banished for supposedly objectionable words or acts.
“One of their political weapons is ‘cancel culture’ – driving people from their jobs, shaming dissenters and demanding total submission from anyone who disagrees. This is the very definition of totalitarianism, and it is completely alien to our culture and our values, and it has absolutely no place in the United States of America,” Trump said in a July 3 speech at Mount Rushmore.
This is a curious argument, to put it mildly, coming from Donald Trump.
Trump has long railed against “political correctness.” But he has also tried for years to get people and entities punished or banished for what he considers objectionable words and acts. Trump has explicitly advocated cancellations, boycotts and firings on numerous occasions – often simply because he doesn’t like something his target has said.
We made a list of such occasions. Don’t bother telling us it isn’t complete; there are so many examples of Trump playing canceler that we’re sure we missed some.
And we deliberately omitted cases in which Trump as President fired officials or called before his presidency for political officials to be fired for political reasons. Though definitions of supposed “cancel culture” vary, those cases, in our view, just don’t qualify.
Here’s the list in chronological order.
August 2012: Trump says Black journalist Touré, then a co-host of the MSNBC show “The Cycle,” should be “forced to resign” for comments in which Touré uttered a variant of the N-word while arguing that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was using racially coded language to try to make President Barack Obama seem frightening. (Touré had apologized before Trump’s demand.)
November 2012: Trump suggests the firing of then-MSNBC host Chris Matthews for saying, on the night of Obama’s victory, that he was “so glad” Hurricane Sandy had occurred, because of its political impact. (Matthews had apologized before Trump’s suggestion.)
December 2012: Trump says “Scots should boycott Glenfiddich garbage” because the whisky brand selected Michael Forbes, a farmer who refused to sell his land to make way for a Trump golf course, as “Top Scot” of the year.
March 2013: Trump says, “Everyone should cancel HBO until they fire low life dummy Bill Maher! Get going now and feel good about yourself!”
July 2013: Trump asks people to “boycott & cancel subscriptions” to Rolling Stone magazine because of a cover featuring Boston Marathon terrorist Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
May 2014: Trump calls for the firing of, or at least an apology from, the person at The Oklahoman newspaper who wrote a headline calling then-Oklahoma City Thunder NBA star Kevin Durant “Mr. Unreliable.” (The newspaper had already apologized.)
April 2015: Trump suggests that conservative writer Jonah Goldberg, then a senior editor of National Review magazine, should be forced to resign for writing that Trump had been “tweeting like a 14-year-old girl” in response to another conservative writer calling Trump a clown. Trump also suggests Fox News anchor Bret Baier should stop having Goldberg on his show.
June 2015: When Spanish-language television network Univision severed its business relationship with Trump after his campaign launch speech, in which he labeled Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists, Trump tweets, “Anyone who wants strong borders and good trade deals for the US should boycott @Univision.”
July 2015: Trump calls for a boycott of Macy’s after Macy’s discontinued its business dealings with him over those same comments about people from Mexico. Trump also tweets “Great” when someone tells him that people are canceling their Macy’s credit cards.
August 2015: Trump calls for the firing of the late conservative writer and Fox News commentator Charles Krauthammer, a regular Trump critic.
September 2015: After National Review editor Rich Lowry argued on Fox News that rival Republican candidate Carly Fiorina had “cut off (Trump’s) balls with the precision of a surgeon” in a primary debate, Trump says: “Incompetent @RichLowry lost it tonight on @FoxNews. He should not be allowed on TV and the FCC should fine him!” (Lowry responds, “I love how Mr. Anti-PC now wants the FCC to fine me. #pathetic.”)
February 2016: Trump says Fox News should fire Republican strategist and commentator Karl Rove for being insufficiently positive about his victory in the Nevada caucuses.
February 2016: Trump calls on the Wall Street Journal to fire its editorial board, which had criticized him, and its pollster, which showed results he didn’t like.
March 2016: Trump proposes a boycott of Megyn Kelly’s Fox News show, complaining that it is too negative toward him.
September 2016: After the Dallas Morning News and Arizona Republic newspapers endorse Hillary Clinton for president and USA Today declares Trump unfit for the office, Trump says, “The people are really smart in cancelling subscriptions to the Dallas & Arizona papers & now USA Today will lose readers! The people get it!”
September 2017: Trump tweets that NFL players and other athletes who don’t stand for the National Anthem should be told, “YOU’RE FIRED.” He says in another tweet, “Fire or suspend!” And at a rally, he says, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired, he’s fired.’ ”
October 2017: Suggesting he could use the power of the state against media entities he dislikes, Trump muses about challenging the broadcast licenses of NBC and other networks over their news coverage. (He again broached the subject of reviewing NBC’s license in September 2018.)
November 2017: Trump calls for a boycott of CNN.
August 2018: Trump tweets, “Many @harleydavidson owners plan to boycott the company if manufacturing moves overseas. Great! Most other companies are coming in our direction, including Harley competitors.”
June 2019: Trump suggests people stop “using or subscribing” to AT&T to pressure the company to make changes at CNN, which it owns.
September 2019: Trump suggests that actress Debra Messing should be fired for calling on a news outlet to publish the names of people attending a Trump fundraiser and for a tweet promoting a church sign that said “a black vote for Trump is mental illness.” (Messing had apologized for the tweet about the church sign.)
January 2020: Trump says The New York Times should fire columnist Paul Krugman, a winner of the Nobel Prize in economics, for having incorrectly predicted a global recession after Trump’s victory in 2016.
May 2020: The day after Twitter appended a fact check link to dishonest Trump claims about mail-in voting, Trump threatens to shut down social media companies: “Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices. We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen.”
May 2020: Trump seeks the firing of Chuck Todd, host of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” for the show playing a misleadingly shortened clip of comments by Attorney General William Barr. (Todd apologized, saying it was an inadvertent mistake.) Again broaching the power of the state, Trump tags the accounts of the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates television, and its chairman, Ajit Pai.