wo more Columbia custodians come forward: ‘I could have been killed in there.’ Also: Momala. Drake versus Kendrick Lamar. And much more from The Free Press.

The Americans Seeking the American Dream—in Russia

Plus: Two more Columbia custodians come forward: ‘I could have been killed in there.’ Also: Momala. Drake versus Kendrick Lamar. And much more.

On today’s Front Page from The Free Press: Why America doesn’t want a Momala. Eli Lake on a rap beef for the ages. Two more Columbia workers speak out. And more. 

But first, for our lead story, Peter Savodnik profiles the American men who, in search of the American dream, went east to Russia. 

It was probably January 2023 when Joseph Rose, a 49-year-old YouTuber from Tallahassee, Florida, realized God had sent him to Moscow.

“I do think it was God leading me to where I needed to be right now,” Rose told me over the phone. He was in his apartment, with recessed lighting and a sauna and an odd pirate theme, outside the center of the Russian capital. “I would say that Russia is becoming a bastion of Christianity and that America is becoming the opposite of this.” 

He added: “I was put in a spot where I could be used.”

He was alluding to his YouTube channel, which had made him something of a celebrity in Russia. “People recognize me on the street all the time.”

When people ask him what it’s like living in Russia, Rose said, “I often say it feels like our positive vision of 1950s America.”

Rose resides at the nexus of a growing movement of Americans chasing the American dream. In Russia.

I spoke to twenty American expats, all men, who have moved to Russia over the past four years. They told me they moved to Moscow or St. Petersburg or the wild east—Siberia—because they no longer believed the one person they once thought could save America—Donald Trump—could still save it. Continue reading. 

“I could have been killed in there”: Two more Columbia custodians tell The Free Press about the night that left them “traumatized.” 

Yesterday, The Free Press published an exclusive interview with Mario Torres, a facilities worker at Columbia who was photographed fighting off a pro-Palestinian protester as a mob invaded Hamilton Hall on April 30. A GoFundMe raising money for Torres’s potential legal fees surpassed the target of $18,000 in hours. The total has since reached more than $30,000. 

Now, two of Torres’s colleagues, Lester Wilson and Jesse Wynne, who were also working in the building with him that night, tell The Free Press they feel betrayed not only by the university—which their union is now suing on their behalf—but by the student protesters who put them in harm's way.

“I’m not going back to that building ever,” Wilson told our Francesca Block.

He said he cries every time he thinks back to the incident. “I’m traumatized,” he said. “I could have been killed in there.” 


An early front-runner for the most cringe-inducing moment of 2024 landed last week, when Drew Barrymore clasped Vice President Kamala Harris’s hands on her daytime talk show and pleaded for her to be “Momala of the country.” Barrymore’s studio audience may have applauded, but maybe that was just to break the awkward silence. Because Kamala isn’t at all popular. While some Democrats seem to think she should be the future of their party, the lesson of the last four years, writes Kat Rosenfield, is just the opposite: America doesn’t need Momala Harris. READ THAT BARN BURNER HERE.

  1. Vladimir Putin was sworn in for his fifth six-year term as Russian president on Tuesday, one day after he’d ordered tactical nuclear weapons drills near Ukraine. (Reuters)

  2. The administrative state is making us poorer, dumber, and sicker. Yuri Bezmenov (the nom de guerre, taken from a Soviet dissident, of a blogger we recommend) is ready to do battle against bureaucrats, armed with dozens of terrifying charts. (How To Subvert Subversion)

  3. Americans have burned through their pandemic savings. Economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco estimate that excess savings peaked at $2.1 trillion in August 2021 and went to zero this March. That’s a lot of travel and cocktails. (FRBSF

  4. Ukraine’s security service said it foiled a plot to assassinate Volodymyr Zelensky. Kiev said that two Ukrainian colonels responsible for protecting senior officials were working as part of a covert group of Russian agents. (CNN)

  5. Joe Biden condemned the “ferocious surge in antisemitism in America and around the world” since October 7 in a speech yesterday. “Not 75 years later, but just seven and a half months later, and people are already forgetting. . . that Hamas unleashed this terror, that it was Hamas that brutalized Israelis, that it was Hamas that took and continues to hold hostages.” (AP)

  6. Meanwhile, the Biden administration is reportedly holding up shipments of Boeing-made precision bombs to “send a political message to Israel.” (Politico

  7. A TikTok ban could be an “extinction-level event” for the creator economy, warns NPR. As if they’re an endangered species. We could also just have a creator economy not controlled by the Chinese Communist Party. (NPR)

  8. Stormy Daniels took to the witness stand Tuesday to answer questions about her alleged sexual encounter with Donald Trump in 2006. She said she initially declined an invitation to have dinner with Trump but changed her mind because it would “make a great story.” She added, “What could possibly go wrong.” (NBC News

  9. New York governor Kathy Hochul said that black kids in the Bronx don’t know what the word computer means. It seems while kids are the future—they also definitely know about computers—patronizing politicians are the never-ending present. (New York Post)

  10. Ross Douthat assigns college kids a reading list to widen the ideological lens. It includes C.S. Lewis, Neil Postman, and Robert Putnam. What would you add to the list? (New York Times)

Readers, this was supposed to be the spot in The Front Page where I urge you to buy tickets for our upcoming debate in San Francisco on whether criminal justice reform has made our cities unsafe. There’s a problem, though: we’re already sold out. For those who missed out, let’s make this a teachable moment. Paid subscribers get access to a 24-hour presale, so subscribe today to avoid disappointment when we announce our next debate. Paid subscribers also get to watch the recording of the debate before everyone else. (You can watch our last debate, on immigration, here.) 

As for those of you who have tickets: see you there! What merch will you be rocking on debate night? And why is the answer our brand-new TGIF socks

→ What the Drake vs. Kendrick Lamar beef is all about: After it was born in the Bronx 50 years ago, hip-hop matured into one of our country’s greatest cultural exports, but for the last decade or so, the art form has been dominated by a Canadian child actor obsessed with his feelings.

I’m speaking of Aubrey Graham, better known as Drake, who has sold 188 million singles since he released his first album in 2010—more than any artist in the history of music, let alone rap.

But there’s an American artist who’s long had doubts about Drake’s commercial success. Kendrick Lamar is the closest thing rap has to a poet laureate—he won the Pulitzer Prize in 2018, for God’s sake. And for the last six weeks, he’s been waging a war on Drake that might just destroy the Canadian mogul’s reputation.

It all began when Lamar released the song “Like That” on March 26. On it, Lamar raps: Your best work is a light pack / N***a, Prince outlived Mike Jack. (In this analogy, Kendrick is Prince and Drake is the late, troubled King of Pop.)

No rapper would let a provocation like that slide. Drake responded with the song “Push Ups,” which was leaked online April 13, rapping: Big difference between Mike then and Mike now

Since then, the two rappers have been pelting each other with diss tracks: Drake used AI to co-opt the voice of Kendrick’s hero Tupac Shakur to attack his rival; Kendrick told the world that Drake uses Ozempic and has had plastic surgery; Drake mocked Kendrick for having a white girlfriend (hit vanilla cream to help out with your self-esteem); then, on May 3, Kendrick delivered his most brutal hit yet. 

On “Not Like Us,” Kendrick eviscerates his rival, accusing him of going after young girls and calling him a “certified pedophile.” Everyone seems to agree that this fight is a knockout, with Lamar the winner. 

Drake and Lamar used to be friends—they last collaborated 12 years ago—but since then, their “creative differences” have only grown. Rumor has it Kendrick thinks Drake is more pop star than real rapper, while Drake believes Kendrick’s simply jealous he can do both. And though Drake has sold more units than Kendrick, he will never be considered a visionary. 

The language is new, but the tension is age-old: it’s all about commercial success vs. artistic cred. 

I, for one, am with my countryman, Kendrick Lamar. At a moment when American prestige and power are in decline everywhere from the NBA to the South China Sea, it’s glorious to watch an American rapper take down this hip-hop usurper in Toronto. God bless the USA. —Eli Lake 

→ The Times’ missing story: The Pulitzer Prize winners were announced this week, and the staff of The New York Times won the international reporting award for the paper’s “wide-ranging and revelatory coverage of Hamas’ lethal attack in southern Israel on October 7, Israel’s intelligence failures, and the Israeli military’s sweeping, deadly response in Gaza.” We couldn’t help but notice the most impactful piece of journalism published by the Times in relation to October 7—its “Screams Without Words” investigation into Hamas’s use of mass rape as a weapon of war—was missing from the list of the Times’ winning stories. 

As The Free Press has reported, the story has been attacked by left-wing outlets and the subject of a big internal fight at the paper in the months since its publication. Not that all that scrutiny has turned up any meaningful, correction-worthy errors in the story. Newspapers choose what stories they submit to each category, so why did the Times not include this in their submission? Maybe because the Times top brass thought the Pulitzer judges would swerve a controversial story, or maybe because they want to avoid angering newsroom radicals who seem so determined to defend Hamas against accusations of weaponized sexual violence. 

Michael recommends Rumpole of the Bailey: It may sound strange to recommend a television series that began in 1978 and ended in 1992, but in my opinion, it is the best TV program ever made. The main character is an English barrister, defending his (usually underdog) clients with all his soul. He is locked in an unhappy marriage and is alienated from his son. 

Sounds depressing, doesn’t it? No! It is one of the most amusing and entertaining series ever screened. Just about every episode raises at least two distinct genuine moral issues, which are dealt with in a realistic way, without overdramatization, while presenting all sides. The lead actor, Leo McKern, was a genius, and the supporting cast is superb.

Bill recommends McClard’s, a restaurant in Hot Springs, Arkansas: Bill Clinton knew where to go for barbecue. McClard’s has been serving barbecue for nine decades. When young Billy first started going there, you could give the carhop a nickel, she’d play your song on the jukebox, and you could hear it on your car radio. Today, the menu has expanded to include the Tamale Spread, a couple of homemade hot tamales topped with corn chips, pork and beans, chopped barbecue beef, onions, cheddar cheese and of course, McClard’s signature vinegar-based sauce. I expect they’ll be around for at least another 90 years or so. 

What would you recommend to fellow Free Pressers? Let us know at

Oliver Wiseman is a writer and editor for The Free Press. Follow him on X @ollywiseman

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