April 25, 2024

It’s perhaps unfair to blame Nunes for Truth Social’s failure when you consider that—as with Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts (which bore the same stock symbol, DJT)—Truth Social was never intended to be much more than a scheme to enrich Donald Trump. At Truth Social, Trump holds no management position, even though he owns a 57 percent majority of stock in its parent company, Trump Media & Technology Group. The stock does not represent any investment on Trump’s part; he was given it free of charge, mostly for the use of his name. If Truth Social has failed to succeed as a social media platform, that’s probably because, like the Trump Shuttle, Trump Vodka, Trump Steaks, and the infamous Trump University, it’s really just a branding opportunity to score Trump a quick buck.

Trump does little to disguise this. Will Wilkerson, a former executive at Trump Media & Technology Group, told The Washington Post’s Drew Harwell that in October 2021 he was chatting with company co-founder Andy Litinsky, a onetime contestant on The Apprentice, when Trump rang up Litinsky’s cell phone. Give some of your shares to Melania, Trump told Litinsky. (At the time Trump owned not 57 percent of all shares but 90 percent.) Litinsky did not comply, and five months later, he was kicked off the company’s board. In an email to Wilkerson, Litinsky said this was retaliation, plain and simple. Last month Litinsky sued Trump, demanding a bigger stake.

Truth Social’s failure as a business (as opposed to a stock) was preordained. One poll cited in the SEC filing says that only one-third of all voters would use a social media site associated with Trump. Another says that nearly 40 percent of all Republicans would avoid the platform. “If President Trump becomes less popular,” the company says in the SEC filing, “or there are new controversies that damage his credibility or the desire of people to use a platform associated with him, and from which he will derive financial benefit, [Truth Social’s] results of operations could be adversely affected.” That makes it sound as though Truth Social is succeeding now, while Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee, and of course it is not, except as a stock bubble from which the air has already started to go out. Further threats to the business model cited in the filing are Trump’s possible death, incarceration, or “incapacity.” (On this last, it may already be too late.)