March 18, 2017

David Cay Johnston? Oh yeah, that guy’s cool.


Unless you’ve been in a coma, you probably know that MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and bestselling Melville House author David Cay Johnston broke the media this week, when Johnston showed up on Maddow’s show Tuesday night with several pages of Donald Trump’s tax returns—among the most sought-after documents on the planet—in hand. It created perhaps the biggest splash since Johnston’s book, The Making of Donald Trump was first published in August, only to immediately spend four weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

Donald Trump was definitely watching (like, of course he was), and wasted no time tweeting out a response in which he asked, “Does anybody really believe that a reporter, who nobody ever heard of, ‘went to his mailbox’ and found my tax returns? FAKE NEWS!” This made followers of Johnston’s career fall off their chairs, because:

  1. The reporter “nobody has ever heard of” has won a Pulitzer Prize, and worked as a writer for the New York TimesThe NationUSA TodayPolitico, and elsewhere. He’s a regular cable news commentator, appearing frequently on Democracy Now!The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, CNN, and so on. Johnston and his book have been flashed in nationwide campaign ads, on Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, and in countless news articles. The book, as we mentioned above, spent the first four weeks after its publication on the New York Times bestseller list. Clearly, someone has heard of Johnston.
  2. If the implication Trump meant to make was that Johnston had somehow fabricated the tax documents, this is supremely bizarre, since Trump’s own White House confirmed their veracity before MSNBC’s cameras had even started rolling.
  3. Trump and Johnston have known each for nearly thirty years — Johnston first interviewed Trump for a story in 1988, and their paths have crossed many times since. Trump has Johnston’s home number, and sometimes calls him to discuss stories (and also claims to have “the world’s greatest memory,” lol), as this passage explains:

So… yeah.

This is what a journalist with integrity looks like. And yes, our research confirms that some people have heard of him.

Here’s a rundown of some of the coverage, and coverage of that coverage, that’s followed: