A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
As the senior Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, Devin Nunes was next in line to become its chairman should the Republicans take back the House in 2022. Which is to say that Nunes would have ascended to what is widely considered to be the most powerful chairmanship in the House of Representatives.
And all he had to do was stay in Congress.
But Nunes decided to discard the opportunity. Instead, he announced that he had joined Donald Trump’s social media venture, Truth Social, as its CEO. Nunes said he was “humbled and honored” to have been entrusted with the job.
The decision by Nunes says a lot about where power in the conservative movement rests – or, at least, where Nunes believes it rests. It’s not writing intricate legislation on taxes in Congress. No, Nunes’ move signals that he thinks that the power lies in the pro-Trump media.
And Nunes isn’t wrong. I’ve long pointed out that the top personalities in right-wing media — people like Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and so many others — have far more influence over the state of the GOP than lawmakers, including powerful figures such as Mitch McConnell.
Lawmakers don’t set the narratives inside the GOP as much as they react to their voters acting on those narratives. The people responsible for setting the narratives are the media propagandists that much of the conservative base trusts and turns to for its news and information.
Nunes has indicated for some time that he has understood this, becoming a regular commentator on Fox News over the years. His move to jump ship on Monday shows he is now fully committed down this path…
It’s also not like Trump’s venture is tremendously successful. Yes, Trump says he has secured a $1 billion investment. But Truth Social is still a fledging company that has — in its short time in the public arena — put up some serious red flags.
For one, it has missed its self-imposed deadline to put out a product. When it was first announced, the site was immediately targeted successfully by hackers. And on Monday, it was revealed in public filings that the SPAC taking it public is under investigation by the SEC and FINRA.
In other words, Nunes isn’t even exiting Congress for a sure bet on a right-wing platform like Fox News. That makes his move even all the more remarkable…
Over at Axios, Sara Fischer and Dan Primack published a must-read story Monday morning about how the right is building its own eco chamber. “Conservatives are aggressively building their own apps, phones, cryptocurrencies and publishing houses in an attempt to circumvent what they see as an increasingly liberal internet and media ecosystem,” the duo astutely reported…
FOR THE RECORD
– Casey Newton: “Devin Nunes, who sued Twitter because someone pretending to be his cow made fun of him there, will now be running some sort of Trump social platform. Excited to read the community guidelines…” (Twitter)
– Dick Tofel’s reference to Nunes’ numerous lawsuits against news outlets and writers: “Looking forward to seeing the evolution of Devin Nunes’ views on the laws of libel now that he’s going to presumably be a publisher…” (Twitter)
– Tim Miller’s take: “Growing up every story I was told about politics treated the W&M chairmanship as if it were the height of power and influence. Nunes is taking a pass on it to run Friendster for bigots. Congress’ decline in miniature…” (Twitter)
– Timothy L. O’Brien: “Who just gave Trump $1 billion? Let’s find out…” (Bloomberg)