Marjorie Taylor Greene heckles President Biden at the State of the Union. (Win McNamee via Getty Images)

TGIF: Real Housewives of the SOTU

MTG talks trash. Trump goes soft. DeSantis tightens the screws on Mickey Mouse. Plus: The Free Press exclusive everyone’s talking about.

For our new subscribers, this is my summary of the week. I call it TGIF. See you in the comments.

→ A whistleblower with a harrowing story: Jamie Reed, who worked for years at a pediatric gender clinic, came to The Free Press to blow the whistle on the “morally and medically appalling” treatment of transitioning children at the Washington University Transgender Center at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. She is a compelling whistleblower, in part because her motivation is hard to question: Reed’s partner is a trans man, and she describes her own politics as “left of Bernie.” We are proud to publish her. Read the piece here

In response to Reed’s piece, Sen. Josh Hawley announced an investigation. Hours later Andrew Bailey, Missouri’s Attorney General, launched his own investigation, beginning with a 23-page sworn affidavit from Jamie Reed.

Washington University in St. Louis also responded to our piece in a statement: “We are alarmed by the allegations reported in the article published by The Free Press.” Sen. Hawley says he spoke with the university chancellor, who was “appalled.” Washington University has promised to “ascertain the facts.” 

When they do find those facts, I hope they don’t ignore them. As for the legacy press, I can’t wait to read about this in two years.

→ Whistleblowers are always welcome here: A core part of our work is helping people share their stories. We are always interested in hearing from those inside institutions that have gone haywire, in all the ways that institutions these days seem to go haywire. Don’t hesitate to reach out:

→ Biden’s solid state of our solid union: I thought old Joe did a nice job delivering the State of the Union address and made an America First argument that I think I heard somewhere before. My highlights: Mitt Romney calling Kitara (George Santos) “an embarrassment”; Elizabeth Warren wearing a crayon pinned to her blazer, which I’m sure symbolized something, beside the obvious, which is that her deepest essence is that of a strict but respected elementary school English teacher; and Bernie Sanders in a KN95 mask, looking miserable as his glasses kept fogging up.

American democracy took a sharp turn toward Real Housewives of the SOTU when Biden said Republicans want to “sunset Social Security” (that’s not really true, but he’s referencing Rick Scott’s 12-point plan) and then Marjorie Taylor Greene, in a faux fur-lined coat, stood up and started screaming “Liar, liar!” 

Cameras swung. People gasped. I half-expected a glass of warm chardonnay to be tossed. 

Anyway, you can’t deny that Biden came off as a fully living, non-mummified man. Whatever efforts he’s had to make to keep those eyelids taut is finally settling in, and he even made a few good jokes. But don’t take it from me—take it from America’s past president, now elder statesman, the ever gracious Donald J. Trump: 

Trump added: “His wife, Jill, is looking lovely tonight in a beautiful purple dress, clapping and applauding with great enthusiasm.”

This is a weird, almost alarming turn for Trump—is 16-year-old Barron doing the tweets? Ivanka, are you back?—but I don’t hate it. 

→ DeSantis v. Big Mouse: We really don’t know what a President DeSantis would do if faced with the Chinese army or Islamic terrorists, but we absolutely know what would happen if Goofy went rogue and started a sleeper cell under Space Mountain. We know what would happen in the Florida–Tinker Bell Wars of 2026. DeSantis would absolutely body that Bell. Disney is his Russia. Elsa is his Putin. 

This week, in a show of force, DeSantis worked to seize control of Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District, essentially the land around its park. I didn’t know this, but Disney is allowed to pick the Reedy Creek board members, who act as the county government. In some ways, Disney really is a nation-state. DeSantis wants to rename Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District the “Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.” Which doesn’t really sound like family fun.

If you step back from the silliness of the fact that this is Disney, there is something wild in a politician willing to take on—and on, and on—one of his state’s biggest businesses. 

All I’m saying is that when Mickey and Minnie start dropping short-range ballistic missiles out of a B-52 above the Panhandle: I warned you. And: We are ready. 

→ Atomwaffen founder arrested for plotting terror attack: The founder of neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen was arrested this week for plotting to attack the power grid outside Baltimore. “This alleged planned attack threatened lives and would have left thousands of Marylanders in the cold and dark,” Maryland U.S. Attorney Erek L. Barron said in a press release. The group of radicals who sometimes call themselves accelerationists (as in, accelerate the fall of modern society) have long argued that electrical grids are vulnerable, and taking them down is a good way to sow chaos. They’re right on both fronts! Accelerationist groups seem to be behind a growing number of attacks on electric grids around the country. 

Listen, America has problems; that’s why we TGIF. But if you really, really hate modern America—like, hate it enough to want to shut down Baltimore’s power in February and most likely cause people to freeze to death—I recommend you simply move to a country that might suit you better. Qatar is right there, happy to have you. Iran is beautiful this time of year. Let’s keep the lights on, though. 

→ Don’t shoot the spy balloon, it’s my friend: The culture war came for the spy balloon. And for some godforsaken reason, the American Left decided they are pro-spy balloon, or at least spy balloon-agnostic. Here’s MSNBC’s Chris Hayes: “Digging real real deep to try to get myself to care about the Chinese spy balloon and coming up empty.” 

The strangest take came from Bill Kristol, who has become truly Twitter-brained: “If the balloon had anti-black history messages stenciled on it, or if it were dropping anti-trans pamphlets down to earth, or if it were broadcasting denunciations of wokeness non-stop, MAGA would be pro-balloon. They’d be welcoming the balloon. They’d be worshiping the balloon.” 

Listen, Chris, Bill, my buddies, I know you’re angry that we all saw the spy balloon and thought, “Let’s get rid of that spy balloon.” But I promise you: The Chinese Communist Party has other ways to spy on us (TikTok, for example). At least try to pretend in public that you’re not rooting for the CCP! 

→ Speaking of public breakdowns: First Chris Hayes lost the spy balloon, now Don Lemon is having tantrums. Yes, Lemon seems to be falling apart, screaming at his morning show co-host for interrupting him. He was given a time-out. Part of this might be the stress of being part of a struggling movement. There’s a smart piece in Compact magazine this week by Musa al-Gharbi, headlined “Woke-ism Is Winding Down.” As a mom who’s had to end playtime and start bedtime, I know it’s hard when things end. Expect more tantrums. 

→ John Fetterman is hospitalized: He was apparently feeling light-headed. We wish him the best. 

→ Drama at Project Veritas: James O’Keefe, the conservative investigative reporter, was reportedly suspended from Project Veritas. The group is known for stunty undercover video exposés. Often the scene is: guy on a date with a pretty girl—or another guy, as oftentimes the stings are set up through gay dating apps. Turns out, the date has a hidden camera. 

We already live in fear of ending up on a Zoomer’s TikTok, where—I don’t know if you know this—kids love to make fun of old people. I can see it now, captioned “old lady waddling,” and it’s just a video of me on a treadmill, one eye squinted shut, trying to read my phone. Now we have to worry about ending up in a Veritas video, too. 

But what is Project Veritas without O’Keefe? Who is O’Keefe without Project Veritas? We don’t know yet what the allegations against him are, but … it’s gotta be bad. I can’t imagine the Veritas leadership fires people over microaggressions. Maybe they found out he voted for Biden? Was O’Keefe wearing a crayon pin?

→ Kamala puff piece gone horribly wrong: Kamala Harris, America’s absent stepmom, the border czar who didn’t really feel like doing border stuff, can’t catch a break. When The New York Times went to profile her, the Kamala team gave them a list of friends to call. It didn’t go well, or as the reporters wrote: “Even some Democrats whom her own advisers referred reporters to for supportive quotes confided privately that they had lost hope in her.” 

I love an eccentric San Franciscan with wacky politics and wacky shoes, and I think Kamala should come home. As someone who couldn’t cut it on the East Coast, I want to tell you that it’s okay, Madame Vice President. I also don’t want to march along the border! I’m writing this in my pajamas. Come back west and we can go on a hike and have an afternoon at the med spa. This is what we’re meant for. 

→ Any news about the Jews? Surely people are talking about a different minority this week—maybe Gypsies, maybe the Kurds? Nope, still Jews. Joe Rogan’s podcast blasts through our home (the baby can fall asleep only to the sounds of a bro, very close to a microphone, explaining crypto). Well, this week Rogan started talking about Ilhan Omar, the progressive congresswoman from Minnesota, and how she doesn’t need to apologize for her past antisemitic comments at all. He said this: “The idea that Jews are not into money is ridiculous. That’s like saying Italians aren’t into pizza.” His interlocutor Krystal Ball didn’t call him out, but she did segue seamlessly from Jews loving money right into Israeli politics. 

One question is whether this implies Jews aren’t into pizza. And do Italians not like money?

Here’s our resident cartoonist David Mamet on the issue:

→ Salman Rushdie is back: The writer is back and posted a selfie of his new face, a little more gaunt now and, of course, missing an eye. The radical Islamists finally got their knives into him. But Rushdie is still here, and he has a new book out. 

There’s a beautiful essay on Rushdie’s bravery in The New Yorker. And then there’s a critique of him published this week in The Drift, a small literary magazine based in Manhattan (staffed with people who hate me, but I can’t help but love them!). It quotes Martin Amis, who made a good point on how the fatwa stole the writer from us: “Rushdie has vanished into the front page.” 

Rushdie is politically very inconvenient now because he’s living proof that radical Islamist violence is part of American life. He’s also inconvenient because the American intelligentsia’s response to a fatwa these days is to say tell us more! An art professor at a small liberal arts college shows students fourteenth-century Islamic art? You say that’s offensive now? She’s fired! This week, Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota fully broke down over a show by an Iranian American artist that wrestled with topics of feminism and Muslim identity. From a great piece on the chaos as the school scrambled to censor her show in a dozen ways:

“The college responded by closing the exhibit for a weekend; holding a community conversation; temporarily shrouding the gallery in black curtains; and then reopening the exhibit with a content warning and frosted glass on some of the gallery windows.”

But the sensitivity and censorship movement can’t figure out how to handle Rushdie, who offends sensibilities by being alive. Unfortunately, liberal arts college administrators can’t yet just go ahead and kill him. Tricky situation. 

Long live Salman. 

→ Fauci, WOW-ci: Our old Covid czar is cashing in. The man who denied helping out with any gain-of-function research, the heartthrob who oversaw work on beagles, and the elfin memelord who kept America locked down much longer than we needed to be now charges $100,000 a speech. All we can say is WOW-ci! I gotta talk to Bari about her rate. 

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