In January, 2013, Donald Trump’s special counsel, Michael Cohen, sent a letter to the Onion. The satirical online newspaper, whose Latin motto is Tu Stultus Es (“You Are Dumb”), had just published a piece under Trump’s byline, titled “When You’re Feeling Low, Just Remember I’ll Be Dead in About 15 or 20 Years.” The attorney threatened legal action. “Let me begin,” Cohen wrote, “by stating the obvious . . . that the commentary was not written by Mr. Trump. Secondly, the article is an absolutely disgusting piece that lacks any place in journalism; even in your Onion. I am hereby demanding that you immediately remove this disgraceful piece from your website and issue an apology to Mr. Trump.” The Onion gleefully declined to comply.
“We never apologized,” Cole Bolton, the site’s editor-in-chief, said recently at the Onion’s offices, in Chicago. “The article’s still up.”
Trump has been a target of the Onion for around two decades. “We’ve always thought of him as a horrendous buffoon, an objectionable person,” Bolton said. Still, the editor and his staff of sixteen mostly liberal writers and editors weren’t thrilled by the prospect of having to cover, even satirically, a Trump Presidency. “I felt a comedic dread,” Chad Nackers, the forty-three-year-old head writer, said. Nackers has satirized four Presidencies. His favorite was the Obama Administration, he said, “because Biden was a fucking blast.” Like many news outlets, just before this past election the Onion prepared headlines for both possible outcomes.