Anatomy of a Trump tweet: Vanity Fair Edition

  • Michael M. Grynbaum
  • The New York Times
Dec 29, 2017
Anna Wintour, Vogue's editor in chief, and the artistic director of Cond Nast, which publishes Vanity Fair, in New York, June 7, 2017. President Donald Trump's Dec. 28 broadside tweet aimed at Vanity Fair mastered a tricky title and made much of a 14-word statement.

President Donald Trump, vacationing in Palm Beach, Florida, was relatively subdued on Twitter this week — at least until Thursday, when he launched a somewhat arcane broadside at the magazine Vanity Fair. The tweet, dense by Trumpian standards, was a bit confounding, given its highly specific references to rumors and tensions within the Manhattan magazine industry, and a minor Twitter kerfuffle involving a 63-second video about Hillary Clinton. 

Here it is: 

“Vanity Fair, which looks like it is on its last legs, is bending over backwards in apologizing for the minor hit they took at Crooked H. Anna Wintour, who was all set to be Amb to Court of St James’s & a big fundraiser for CH, is beside herself in grief & begging for forgiveness!” 

Phew. Let’s break this down. 

1. Vanity Fair: Glossy monthly that has long been a thorn in Trump’s side; its recently retired editor, Graydon Carter, coined the epithet “short-fingered vulgarian” for the president. On at least 20 occasions, Trump has tweeted that the magazine is struggling, hence “on its last legs.” 

2. Apologizing for the minor hit: Last Friday, Vanity Fair’s site The Hive posted a video in which staff members suggested New Year’s resolutions for Hillary Clinton, like they did for a number of people — including the president. 

The jokes were not kind; Clinton was urged, for instance, to take up a new hobby — “volunteer work, knitting, improv comedy, literally anything that’ll keep you from running again.” This did not sit well among Clinton’s fans, including actress Patricia Arquette, who tweeted at Vanity Fair to “STOP TELLING WOMEN” what “THEY SHOULD DO OR CAN DO.” The hashtag #CancelVanityFair trended. 

On Wednesday, Vanity Fair said the video “was an attempt at humor and we regret that it missed the mark.” Whether a 14-word statement amounts to “bending over backwards” is up to interpretation. 

3. Anna Wintour: Vogue’s editor-in-chief, and the artistic director of Condé Nast, the publisher of Vanity Fair. She was a major booster of Clinton’s campaign personally and recounted her accomplishments in Vogue. But she also attended Trump’s wedding to Melania Knauss in 2005 and, after last year’s election, hosted him at Condé Nast, a gesture interpreted as a peace offering that also prompted internal grumbling. 

4. Amb to Court of St James’s: The formal name for the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom — the president even nailed the tricky possessive at the end. In 2012, rumors spread that the London-born Wintour was in line for this prestigious post. Among the rumormongers: Trump himself, who tweeted his support on Dec. 5, 2012: 

“I am happy to hear that Pres.Obama is considering giving Anna Wintour @voguemagazine an ambassadorship. She is a winner & really smart!” 

5. CH: Wintour was indeed a major fundraiser for Hillary Clinton, co-hosting events for her in Paris, New York and the Hamptons. Clinton’s initials happen to be the inverse of “CH.” Did Mr. Trump make a typo? Or — perhaps more likely — is this an abbreviation of “Crooked Hillary”?An inquiry to the White House press team was not returned. 

6. beside herself in grief: There is no evidence for Trump’s claim that Wintour is “begging for forgiveness” over the Vanity Fair video; it is not clear that she is aware of the kerfuffle in the first place. (Condé Nast declined to comment on Thursday.) 

But Wintour did recently appear to withdraw the olive branch she extended to the president after his victory. In October, she told the talk show host James Corden that she would not reinvite Trump to the Met Gala, the A-list Manhattan society event she hosts. Perhaps there is no fury like a president scorned.