Salman Rushdie at The Frankfurt Book Fair in October 2023. (Photo by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)

Who Saved Salman Rushdie? Plus. . .

Mike Johnson’s moment. Columbia’s radical chic. And why the Trump jury will restore your faith in America.

Last night we published two firsthand accounts by Jewish students assaulted on campus in recent days, Sahar Tartak at Yale and Jonathan Lederer at Columbia. For more on how America’s campuses became hotbeds of hate and intolerance, revisit Niall Ferguson’s Free Press essay “The Treason of the Intellectuals,” and watch Olivia Reingold’s documentary American Miseducation

Meanwhile, Salman Rushdie is someone who knows all too well how intolerance can lead to violence. Two years ago, more than three decades after Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against the author, he was stabbed onstage in upstate New York as he was about to deliver a lecture. Miraculously, he survived. He has just published Knife, his account of the attack and his recovery, which Peter Savodnik reviews for us today: 

Who Saved Salman Rushdie? 

In his new memoir, Salman Rushdie describes the moment he glimpsed his would-be murderer closing in on him. 

“My eyes follow the running man as he leaps out of the audience and approaches me,” he writes in Knife

Rushdie, then 75, had just taken the stage at Chautauqua, a resort in upstate New York, when Hadi Matar, a 24-year-old New Jersey man, stabbed him in the stomach, neck, thigh, chest, and eye. This was August 12, 2022. The author spent more than six weeks in two hospitals, first in Erie, Pennsylvania, then in Manhattan, and was finally discharged late one night, by way of a side door—the better to stay out of view, safe.

Leaving the hospital, Rushdie recalls, was “exhilarating.”

“I made myself a promise while we floated through the New York night: I’m going to take back as much of my life here as possible, as soon as I possibly can,” he writes.

This is a recurring theme in Knife, a short book that touches on several meaty questions—why are we here? What is the meaning of love?—but is really about one big thing: the imperative to live. 


Oral arguments in the Trump trial begin today—earlier than many expected. Experts predicted it would take weeks to pick a jury. Instead, it took only three days. Joe Nocera was at the courthouse to watch the process and, as he writes in The Free Press today, was surprised to find the spectacle downright inspiring. To quote Trump’s rally anthem, it’s enough to make you “proud to be an American.” 

Here’s Joe: 

Ten Stories We’re Reading 

  1. The Second Cold War is escalating a lot faster than the first. Niall Ferguson on the conflict “being waged by a new Axis against the fundamental values we hold dear: democracy, the rule of law, individual freedom.” (Bloomberg)

  2. Bill Barr plans to vote for Donald Trump in November. The former attorney general has been sharply critical of his old boss, including in these pages. But, in an interview with Fox News, he said that “The threat to our country is from the far left and the drift that’s been occurring toward really a socialistic system and one that brooks no opposition.” (Fox News

  3. Biden is polling slightly better. Nate Silver speculates about why. (Silver Bulletin)

  4. Katherine Maher is no liberal. The NPR CEO’s embarrassing old tweets “perfectly define our new cultural overlords,” writes Andrew Sullivan. (The Weekly Dish)

  5. China ordered Apple to remove the messaging apps WhatsApp, Signal, and Telegram from its app store. The U.S. tech giant complied with the censorship demand. (WSJ)

  6. Trump and Biden are only doing softball interviews. Joe, Donald, if either of you want to answer some real questions, you’re always welcome on Honestly. (Axios

  7. Twenty-seven thoughts on seriousness. “You are not serious people,” said Succession antihero Logan Roy to his kids. But what does it mean to be truly serious? (The Ruffian)

  8. Is the internet holding us back or driving us forward? Ross Douthat at his thought-provoking best, ft. Marc Andreessen, Jurassic Park, Tyler Cowen, and more. (NYT

  9. How Latin America started to beat inequality. (It’s not just by electing center-left governments.) Noah Smith reports. (Noahpinion)

  10. After barring its valedictorian from speaking because of her views on Israel, USC has now decided to drop all “outside speakers and honorees” from its graduation ceremony. The decision was made to “keep the focus on our graduates,” the school said. (Variety)

‘I quit a civil rights group because its policies will harm children.’

Until Friday, Rafael Mangual was a member of a civil rights committee seeking to reform how child abuse and neglect is investigated in New York State. But Rafael decided to resign rather than put his name to a report that he thinks will put kids at risk. He writes in The Free Press about the committee’s “pathological obsession with racial disparity” that “will endanger the lives of our most vulnerable children, especially black children.” 

Read his full account of why he stepped down here: 

On Our Radar

→ Mike Johnson meets the moment: For months, Republicans like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Rep. Thomas Massie have threatened House Speaker Mike Johnson’s job if he brought a Ukraine aid bill to the floor. On Saturday he did just that. The bill passed, and it looks like he will keep his post. While Greene and Massie are still threatening to invoke a House rule adopted last January that allows a single member to invoke a “motion to vacate” the House speakership, other staunch opponents of aid to Ukraine are standing down. 

“Speaker Johnson is doing the best he can with such a slim majority and facing a Democrat-run Senate and White House,” Rep. Michael Waltz, a Republican who has opposed aid to Ukraine, told The Free Press. “With the world on fire, inflation out of control, and the border in chaos, now is the absolutely wrong time to send the House back into chaos again with another motion to vacate. And it would do nothing to help President Trump and Republicans in November.”

For the moment, Greene and Massie appear to be out on a limb. To start, Donald Trump weighed in at the last minute to support the $95 billion aid package that included $60 billion for Ukraine, $26 billion for Israel, and $8 billion to help defend Taiwan. Saturday, on Truth Social, the former president posted that Europe should be paying more for Ukraine’s defense than America. “As everyone agrees, Ukrainian Survival and Strength should be much more important to Europe than to us, but it is also important to us!” he said. Senator Lindsey Graham told Fox News Sunday the aid package “would not have passed without Donald Trump.” Two House Republican staffers told The Free Press that Trump’s post gave MAGA Republicans in the House permission to vote for the aid bill. 

Even though Johnson is now likely to stay on as Speaker of the House, the vote itself is troubling to Reagan Republicans who support a strong U.S. foreign policy against Russia. All told, 112 Republicans voted against aid to Ukraine when it came up for a floor vote, while 111 Republicans voted in favor. —Eli Lake

→ Cass report author can’t take public transport: Earlier this month, British pediatrician Dr. Hilary Cass published her landmark report on gender care for minors in the UK. Its findings were shocking, if not surprising to anyone who has been following the growth of “gender-affirming care” worldwide. Cass’s report concluded that ideology had trumped medicine in Britain’s healthcare system—and that thousands of young people were given life-changing treatments when there was “no good evidence on the long-term outcomes of interventions to manage gender-related distress.” 

Yesterday, in an interview with The Times, Cass revealed she has received a torrent of abusive emails for doing her job—along with security advice that she should not travel on public transport. Asked if the abuse had taken a toll on her she said, “No. . . it’s personal, but these people don’t know me.” She said she is more annoyed about those who have misrepresented her findings, including a prominent Labour Member of Parliament who claimed Cass had omitted 100 transgender studies from her report. “I’m much, much more upset and frustrated about all this disinformation than I am about the abuse,” she said. “The thing that makes me seethe is the misinformation.” 

→ Columbia’s radical chic: Another word about the campus protests. . . the New York Post has been digging into the backgrounds of the Columbia protesters and you’ll be shocked to discover that these revolutionaries are not exactly working-class heroes. Among those arrested last week: the daughter of a senior UPS executive, an intern for New York State Attorney General Letitia James, and, oh, and Isra Hirsi, whose mother is House Rep. Ilhan Omar. Hirsi has a hammer and sickle in her bio on Xedgy!—and since her arrest, she has been profiled glowingly in Teen Vogue.

ICYMI: Nicole Avant appeared on Honestly last week to discuss her new memoir, in which she writes about how she dealt with unspeakable tragedy when her mother was murdered in a home invasion in 2021. It’s a moving conversation, and not one you’ll want to miss. Watch Nicole explain how she found the power to forgive her mother’s killer:

And listen to the episode in full here: 

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

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