POLITICS

So Mooch For That: Anthony Scaramucci's Game-Changing Media Outlet Is A Dud

The guy running it is best known as actor Taye Diggs' tireless social media manager.
When Anthony Scaramucci launched his media outlet last fall, he said "we have absolutely no idea" what it will be.
When Anthony Scaramucci launched his media outlet last fall, he said "we have absolutely no idea" what it will be.

In October, the media world was put on notice: Anthony Scaramucci, the hedge fund adviser and blink-and-you-missed-it White House communications director, would be launching an organization that would upend the way people got their news.

“The Scaramucci Post is going to be the center lane in a two-way highway,” Scaramucci declared in a metaphor salad posted to his eponymous news outlet’s Twitter feed. “We sort of feel that the pendulum on the clock split and went two ways. One part of the pendulum is sitting way far on the right, and the other part of the pendulum is sitting way far on the left.”

His outlet, Scaramucci said, would serve as the town square for moderate politics and also a platform for solving major issues. “Everything in moderation, including moderation,” he summarized.

If that sounds both ill-focused and wildly ambitious, it’s because it was.

In the months since, the Scaramucci Post has resembled less a game-changing media outlet and more the web footprint of a (mostly) lovable but digitally naive elderly relative. Its website has a scant five entries and hasn’t been updated since November.

Its Twitter account, which is very active, is a manic gumbo of emojis and half-baked attempts at feel-goodery, as if Michael Scott just discovered the emoji keyboard on his phone and was made editor-in-chief of Upworthy.

These are the good days.

On its bad days, the Scaramucci Post’s Twitter account is a perplexing mix of head-scratching gaffes, ill-advised attempts at political reconciliation and the downright offensive, most famously when it tweeted out a poll asking readers how many Jews were killed in the Holocaust.  

That poll prompted widespread condemnation, an apology from Scaramucci, the tweet’s removal and then, perplexingly, its re-posting and subsequent rebuke of the “mob-like” criticism it had received.

The Scaramucci Post’s haphazard state raises the question: Was it merely an impulsive grab at publicity to distract from its founder’s turbulent 10-day tenure as White House communications director? Was it a sleight of hand by the man who had just been fired by President Donald Trump over an expletive-laden New Yorker interview in which he compared himself to then-senior strategist Steve Bannon by declaring, “I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock”?

Lance Laifer, the outlet’s social media manager and Scaramucci’s right-hand man in the venture, disputes the idea that the project is languishing. In an email to HuffPost, he claimed that everything was going to plan. Cultivating the Scaramucci Post’s Twitter account, Laifer said, has been their priority for the last six months and it has been “extremely active and successful.”

You may not know Laifer, but there’s a chance you’ve interacted with him. He’s best known for being the guy who has set the Twitter account of another of his clients, actor Taye Diggs, to follow hundreds of thousands of people, one by one by one. It was a digital undertaking of such herculean proportions that GQ interviewed Laifer about it and Diggs was asked about it during an appearance on “The Today Show.” Diggs said he had retained the services of a “social network dude.” That dude is now running social media for the Scaramucci Post.

As of late March, @ScaramucciPost sported over 24,000 followers, an impressive number, but not necessarily one that can anchor an entire business strategy that, in Laifer’s words, should “generate high returns on assets and equity.” If a Twitter account with followers in the low five figures were a lucrative business enterprise, many reporters would be a lot richer than they are. Taye Diggs, for what it’s worth, has over 650,000 followers.

Laifer, who pivoted from hedge fund manager to his current role as Twitter proselytizer, is not exactly who’d you expect to be championing questionable social media strategies and running a frankly underwhelming Twitter account for a figure most prominently associated with the country’s ultra-nationalist president.

For one thing, Laifer describes himself as “pretty far to the left politically.” He told HuffPost that longtime consumer advocate and former Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader is his favorite politician (Nader has actually written about Laifer’s charitable work). In this context, Laifer said he serves as the Scaramucci Post’s liberal counterweight to its founder’s more conservative politics ― the left pendulum to Scaramucci’s right pendulum, as it were (although Scaramucci supported President Barack Obama’s two campaigns for the White House and originally backed Hillary Clinton’s bid as well).   

It’s also worth noting that Laifer is Jewish and has previously commented on using the lessons of the Holocaust to prevent or mitigate other catastrophes. That’s an interesting background for the creator of a tweet poll that seemed to play to the ascendant anti-Semitism and Holocaust denialism of Trump’s alt-right supporters and prompted condemnation from the Anti-Defamation League.

“I posted a Holocaust Awareness Poll because I believe far too many people do not know that more than 35% of the Jewish population was systematically murdered by the Nazis,” Laifer wrote HuffPost. “It is our responsibility to the 6,000,000 Jews ― including members of my family ― who were murdered by the Nazis that we do everything we can to make sure that every generation remembers, understands and internalizes the lessons of the Holocaust.”

What’s perhaps most perplexing about Laifer’s current station is that he has proved to be a far savvier operator than the Scaramucci Post’s rinky-dink Twitter account would suggest. He previously leveraged his connections in the financial world to start Hedge Funds vs. Malaria, which raised millions to combat the disease in developing countries and which The New York Times once described as an “it” charity. From there, he founded World Pneumonia Day, which received the blessing of no less a charitable tastemaker than Times op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof.

Laifer said he hopes to use the Scaramucci Post to combat the opioid epidemic. To this end, he is marshaling his platform to support the Trump administration’s opioid efforts and trying to make a Scaramucci Post tweet about the epidemic the most retweeted in Twitter’s 12-year history. The Nov. 27 tweet currently has over 7,500 retweets, leaving it somewhat shy of the 3.6 million retweets given to a high school student trying to get free chicken nuggets from Wendy’s

What the former White House communications director hoped to accomplish with the Scaramucci Post remains unclear.
What the former White House communications director hoped to accomplish with the Scaramucci Post remains unclear.

The likeliest explanation for Scaramucci and Laifer’s half-baked web presence is that they expected to use the endeavor as a flimsy but acceptable reason to keep themselves in front of decision-makers and well-off hedge fund types. Like Laifer and his charities, Scaramucci had made a name for himself and his financial work among high-flying elites. His arrival in the Trump administration was seen as an attempt to bridge the gap between the beleaguered White House and the types of moneyed wonks one finds at the annual conclave in Davos, Switzerland, the Aspen Ideas Festival and other gatherings of the world’s intellectual leisure class.

Laifer said Scaramucci Post-hosted events are in the pipeline. They’re also gearing up to roll out “@moochpost,” a nod to Scaramucci’s nickname, which Laifer said will serve as a hub for cultural news and discussion the way the Scaramucci Post acts as one for politics.   

Given that Scaramucci himself recently inked a book deal with Hachette to write The Blue Collar President: How Trump Is Reinventing the Aspirational Working Class and judging from discussions with those in Scaramucci’s orbit, it’s unclear just how much more time or resources he intends to put into the venture.

HuffPost sought comment from Scaramucci, but representatives at his investment firm, SkyBridge Capital, said he was out of the country and unable to speak on the record.

Laura Goldman, a close friend of and ad hoc spokeswoman for Scaramucci as well as a freelance journalist who has previously written for HuffPost, implied that circumstances have prevented him from devoting as much time to his media endeavor as he would have liked.

“Anthony is an American success story as an entrepreneur. With that track record, he started the Scaramucci Post,” Goldman told HuffPost in an email. “He was soon engulfed in many other interviews and projects. Some soon to be announced including a book about President Trump as an entrepreneur.”

Yet it was pretty clear from the get-go that there was no real plan for the Scaramucci Post.

“We have absolutely no idea what the Scaramucci Post is, and neither do you,” Scaramucci told The Hill last October when asked for a concise overview of his new venture. He added, “We’ll have to see how the whole thing unfolds.”

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