Our scene begins in an office at Mar-a-Lago. Donald Trump, the former president of the United States, sits at his desk, head in his hands. Devin Nunes, the CEO of Trump Media & Technology Group, approaches, avoiding the documents thrown haphazardly all over the floor. He presents Trump with a list of Truth Social messages for his approval.
But your news is not “true.”
Let me question more in particular: What have you,
my good friend, deserved at the hands of fortune,
that she sends you to prison hither?
Prison, my lord!
Truth Social is a prison.
Then is the world one.
A goodly one; in which there are many confines,
wards and dungeons, Truth Social being one o’ the worst.
Okay, obviously Trump and Nunes didn’t actually say any of this. But William Shakespeare was such a genius that, with some adaptations, these lines, in which Hamlet expresses his feelings of hopelessness and confinement in Denmark, can be applied to the former president’s lamentations that he can’t leave the janky website he built so he could keep shit-talking his political enemies.
When Elon Musk’s deal to buy Twitter for $44 billion finally went through last month, Trump insisted he would stay on Truth Social, though Musk had said he would reverse his Twitter ban.
But despite Trump’s gushing about his Twitter clone, it appears something is rotten in Truth Social. The social-media site was part of a deal Trump Media & Technology Group struck with the former president in February 2021 to create a variety of business ventures. Trump signed a “mutual noncompete” with the start-up’s co-founders, the former Apprentice contestants Andy Litinsky and Wes Moss, which included a pledge not to work with anyone else; in return, Trump got 90 percent of the company’s shares. Now the Washington Post has revealed that as Litinsky and Moss were building Truth Social, Trump kept flirting with Gettr, a rival conservative social-media network helmed by his former aide Jason Miller.
When the Truth Social team learned Trump had had multiple meetings with Miller — at one point asking if his ex-aide thought “Truth” would be a good name for a social-media site without mentioning that it was already in the works — they “scrambled to recommit Trump to his own company,” per the Post. Even after Litinsky traveled to Trump Tower to show off a Truth Social prototype to the ex-president and his sons Eric and Don Jr., taking a selfie to commemorate the occasion, Trump kept negotiating with Miller and asking Gettr for more:
Miller’s final offer to Trump included $100 million — and potentially more — over five years to post on Gettr, the people said. The deal would have even included a payout for Trump if he were elected president again, one of these people said, and much of the money would have been paid near the end of the agreement, before Trump retook office.
Trump … repeatedly requested larger equity in the company, people briefed on the meetings said. At one point, Trump asked if he could get 85 or 90 percent before settling for a lower number after Miller likened the agreement more to a trademark or licensing deal, the people said.
Trump ultimately abandoned Gettr’s offer and stuck with his own site. But now he feels trapped on Truth, where his musings reach only 4 million followers, a far cry from the 88 million he had on Twitter. Per the Post:
Trump has told his allies that he can’t leave Truth Social, because he’s propping it up, and he doesn’t want a site so closely associated with his brand to collapse, according to people familiar with his thinking who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.
Amid the Gettr–Truth Social dustup, Trump did find a potential escape route, renegotiating his original deal. Under the new terms, his posts are only exclusive to Truth Social for eight hours, and he can post “political messaging, political fundraising or get-out-the-vote efforts” whenever and wherever he likes. He’s also making alliances that may come in handy if he decides to make a break for it:
Trump has continued to be open to other corners of the right-wing online ecosystem. After Kanye West, now known as Ye, announced last month that he’d be buying another right-wing social network, Parler, Trump and the rapper reportedly had a discussion about joining each other’s platforms.
But for now, Trump is still languishing on Truth Social, which may be as close as he gets to an actual prison.
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