Posts tagged with "Salon"

After I lost the election’: Legal expert says new Trump recording could be ‘admissible evidence’

June 24, 2024

The former president let the mask slip during an interview in August 2021: Donald Trump got caught forgetting his own lie—that the 2020 election was stolen from him—during an interview with journalist Ramin Setoodeh for his new book, “Apprentice in Wonderland,” according to a tape Setoodeh shared on Thursday, June 20, with MSNBC’s Nicole Wallace.

According to a report by Salon, Setoodeh, the co-editor-in-chief of Variety, told Wallace that he and Trump were discussing the latter’s falling out with his once close friend, former Fox News personality Geraldo Rivera.

As the subject came up, the presumptive GOP nominee let it slip that Rivera called him after he “lost the election,” which he then quickly corrected to say, “I won the election, but when they said we lost.”

Trump went on to belittle Rivera, who he said “called me up three or four times, and finally, I had a little time. I called him back. And he went on Fox and he started talking about, ‘The president called me.’ I didn’t call him.”

As Wallace noted, Trump, “speaking casually,”actually “admitted” that he lost. At the same time, he publicly insists that he won—a lie fervently believed by supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.

Setoodeh said the interview took place in August 2021.

“He was very comfortable that day because we were actually watching clips of ‘The Apprentice,’ and I think part of the reason the mask slipped off was that he was remembering his life as an entertainer. He was very amused, he was excited to see himself in the boardroom,” the author said.

“This is all performance art for Donald Trump,” he added.

At least one legal expert believes Trump’s remark could be used against him.

“This statement made on tape and on the record by … Trump would be admissible in evidence against him on the issue of his corrupt intent in the four Smith indictments in DC that SCOTUS is inexcusably keeping on hold in United States v. Trump,” Laurence Tribe, a law professor at Harvard University, posted on X.

Research contact: @x.com/Salon

Trump ‘defames’ E. Jean Caroll again on Truth Social while sitting in same courtroom

January 18, 2024

Donald Trump fired off more than 30 posts in 40 minutes targeting writer E. Jean Carroll as his second defamation trial got underway on Tuesday, January 16, in New York City; with the two appearing in the same room together for the first time in years, according to CNN.

In other coverage, by Salon, Trump was said to have lobbed a flurry of attacks at Carroll and the federal judge presiding over the ex-columnist’s defamation trial against the former president.

“I am waiting to get into the courtroom for the Carroll proceedings, but the bizarre advantage of still being outside is learning Trump has yet again defamed Carroll on Truth Social,” MSNBC legal analyst Lisa Rubin reported.

In one post, which he later reposted, Trump wrote, “Can you believe I have to defend myself against this woman’s fake story?!” over a video clip of Carroll. He also authored several posts raging at the writer and U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan, who last week applied restrictions on what Trump and his lawyers could discuss during the trial—dubbing Carroll’s lawsuit “attempted extortion” in one and in others accusing Kaplan of hating him; and calling on the judge to “put this whole corrupt, Crooked Joe Biden-directed Election Interference attack on me immediately to rest.”

Trump also shared more than a dozen screenshots of what appear to be posts about sex from Carroll’s social media accounts.

“Trump’s Truth Social account is mass attacking E. Jean Carroll while he sits (phoneless) in court and prospective jurors are beginning to gather,” Politico’s Kyle Cheney wrote on X, citing Politico reporter Erica Orden.

“We’ll see what, if anything, Judge Kaplan has to say about this….” Orden added.

Last Wednesday, Kaplan barred Trump and his team from—among other matters—denying he sexually abused Carroll–holding that “the material facts concerning the alleged sexual assault already have been determined, and this trial will not be a ‘do over’ of the previous trial.”

Research contact: @Salon

‘Lawyers are giggling’: Attorneys scratch their heads at Trump’s ‘very strange’ DOJ lawsuit

Augusst 24, 2022

On Monday, August 22, former President Donald Trump filed a lawsuit demanding the return of documents seized by the FBI from Mar-a-Lago—arguing that the feds did not have sufficient reason for the raid, even though they found 300 classified documents at Trump’s home, according to The New York Times.

Indeed, Salon reports, the FBI recovered more than 300 classified documents from Mar-a-Lago in three batches over the last eight months, according to the report. Trump only turned over 150 of the documents to the National Archives in January, prompting the Justice Department to investigate whether he withheld some materials.

boxes included documents from the CIA, National Security Agency, and FBI across a “variety of topics of national security interest,” according to the report.

Trump rifled through the boxes of documents late last year as officials were attempting to recover them, sources told the outlet. Surveillance footage obtained by the DOJ also showed people “moving boxes … and in some cases, appearing to change the containers some documents were held in,” according to the report. Trump resisted demands to return the documents, describing them as “mine,” sources told the Times.

Earlier this year, Trump attorney Christina Bobb signed a declaration that all classified material had been returned, which ultimately led to the FBI’s unprecedented raid on Trump’s residence to recover documents that he withheld after the first three recovery attempts.

Andrew Weissmann, a former federal prosecutor who served on special counsel Bob Mueller’s team, called the report “incredibly damning” for Trump, noting that the report suggests the former president personally reviewed the documents to decide what to return.

“If you are a prosecutor, you really look for evidence of what the former president did personally,” he told MSNBC. “If the DOJ either knows about or is soon to interview those people who were sources for The New York Times, they’re going to have a substantial criminal case.”

Despite the mounting evidence that Trump’s actions may have run afoul of federal laws governing classified materials and document preservation, Trump filed a lawsuit on Monday arguing that the feds have “failed to legitimize its historic decision” to raid his home.

The lawsuit called for a court to appoint a special master, a third party who is typically a former judge, to review whether some materials may be protected by attorney-client privilege or other guidelines. The lawsuit seeks the return of documents the FBI seized in the raid.

“This Mar-a-Lago Break-In, Search, and Seizure was illegal and unconstitutional, and we are taking all actions necessary to get the documents back, which we would have given to them without the necessity of the despicable raid of my home, so that I can give them to the National Archives until they are required for the future Donald J. Trump Presidential Library and Museum,” Trump said in a statement on Monday.

The lawsuit argues that the raid was politically motivated, claiming that Trump is the “clear frontrunner” in the 2024 election “should he decide to run.”

The lawsuit accuses the feds of violating Trump’s Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure and asks that the court block “further review of seized material” until they are reviewed by a special master.

The DOJ said it would file a response in court.

“The August 8 search warrant at Mar-a-Lago was authorized by a federal court upon the required finding of probable cause,” DOJ spokesperson Anthony Coley told CNBC.

Research contact: @Salon

Why did Lauren Boebert lead a late-night tour of the U.S. Capitol three weeks before January 6?

August 5, 2021

On the night of December 12, last year—the day of the first Stop the Steal rally in Washington, D.C., and three weeks ahead of the January 6 Capitol insurrection—several guests of then-Representative-elect Lauren Boebert (R-Colorado) received  exclusive after-hours tour of the Capitol building from the far-right firebrand, Raw Story reports.

There are several unanswered questions about this visit, which appears to have violated normal Capitol protocol in various ways. It’s not clear who authorized it, since Boebert was not yet a member of Congress and had no official standing in D.C. It’s perhaps even stranger that it occurred on a Saturday night, when the Capitol complex is closed.

Later, in the aftermath of the January 6 attack, Boebert repeatedly denied rumors that she had offered “reconnaissance tours” to would-be rioters shortly before that event. But her ambiguous comments appeared to avoid any specific discussion of this unexplained December tour.

According to materials reviewed by Salon, the December 12 tour led by Boebert involved various parts of the Capitol complex, including the staircase in the Senate’s empty Brumidi Corridors, Senate room S-127 and the Senate briefing room, as well as the then-vacant Capitol Rotunda.

A maskless Capitol Police officer accompanied Boebert’s mother and teenage son to the observation deck at the top of the Capitol Dome for a photo taken by a fourth person—presumably Boebert herself. This is the culmination of any Capitol tour—only available to visitors hosted by a member of Congress—and involves an arduous climb up roughly 300 steep and winding stairs to reach the high perch overlooking the city.

Boebert’s guests were clearly enjoying themselves, but everything about their presence on the observation deck alongside a Capitol Police officer remains unexplained. As mentioned above, the rules for observation deck tours stipulate that a member of Congress and an official guide must accompany each group that climbs the Capitol Dome. There’s no indication that either a member or a guide was present on this occasion.

Furthermore, spots for such tours are not readily available, with only eight reservations available on any given day. It’s true that Boebert was a member-elect at the time, but that’s an important distinction: She certainly was not a sworn member of Congress and had no office, no staff, and no official status in the Capitol complex. It’s even more puzzling that this tour took place on Saturday night. The guidelines for member-led Capitol tours state they are only available on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and also that all visitors must sign liability waivers; and all tours must be led by official Capitol guides, not Capitol Police officers.

U.S. Capitol Police didn’t immediately return Salon’s request for comment on this story.

After Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington), and other lawmakers accused Boebert of “involvement in instigating and aiding the violent riot at the Capitol Building” after January 6, Boebert responded by saying that she hadn’t given tours to anyone but her family during the 117th Congress, which began on January 3, the day she was sworn in as a member.

Her choice of words was notably specific, and potentially significant: “I haven’t given a tour of the U.S. Capitol in the 117th Congress to anyone but family,” she said, specifically not addressing the unauthorized tour she seems to have given during the 116th Congress.

Research contact: @RawStory

New TrumpWorld social media site, Gettr, is hacked, mocked, and trolled with Hedgehog porn

July 9, 2021

Former Trump spokesperson Jason Miller launched a new social media platform called Gettr late last week, only to see it quickly mocked online, particularly for its uninspired name.

Following the flops of such right-wing sites as Gab, Parler, and Mike Lindell’s Frank, Miller presented Gettr  to the public as a way to solve conservatives’ S problems on social media—but, the launch encountered a series of challenges, from hackers scraping troves of users’ private data to leftists trolling the platform with NSFW Sonic the Hedgehog content, Salon reports. 

Last Thursday, Politico was the first to report on Gettr’s plans to go live. A team of former Trump campaign associates helped to kickstart the new right-wing app, which announced itself as aimed at “fighting cancel culture, promoting common sense, defending free speech, challenging social media monopolies, and creating a true marketplace of ideas.” 

While ridicule indeed followed, many in TrumpWorld showed up at the half-developed website, including Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk, former Trump White House aide Sebastian Gorka, and a plethora of former Trump campaign staffers.

Soon thereafter, The Daily Beast uncovered that Miller’s entire venture was being funded by fugitive Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui, aka Miles Kwok, who is friendly with various TrumpWorld figures, most notably Steve Bannon. But before the dust even got a chance to settle, Gettr became the target of hackers who saw the site security as laughable.

According to Salon, on the morning of July 4—the day the site was slated for its grand launch— the site was hacked by a somewhat friendly hacker who defaced usernames on top accounts, including those of former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; American Conservative Union chairman Matt ;Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene; and Jason Miller, himself.

“JubaBaghdad was here, follow me in twitter :),” the hacker wrote, as first reported by Salon. The hacker told Salon that the breach took him less than 20 minutes to carry out in subsequent conversations. “Took from me 20 minutes to find them. And I’m sure I can find more if I spent more time,” the anonymous hacker shared. 

The following day, on Monday, the hacker reached back out to Salon with a lengthy list of other points of concern on Gettr, including “a dangerous bug in their API server,” which the hacker said was an access point where he was able to uncover information including “email, birthdate, and location.”

The hacker, known on Twitter as “JubaBaghdad,” offered as proof that he or she was able to access accurate information scraped from this Salon reporter’s Gettr account, created only days earlier. The hacker stressed that Gettr remains open to attacks.

Miller didn’t respond to Salon’s request for an interview, nor to the offer of answering questions by email.

In public statements, Miller has claimed that Gettr was poised to challenge the “woke tyranny” of Big Tech, a major villain in the conservative universe.

“GETTR is a direct challenge to the social media oligarchs from Silicon Valley, and what better day to declare independence from their woke tyranny than July 4th?” Miller declared. “GETTR is the marketplace of ideas. We will not cancel people for their political opinions, and GETTR offers far more features and better technology than anything else out there.”

But this sales pitch evidently made little impact on Donald Trump, Miller’s former boss, who evidently has no plans to join the right-wing platform anytime soon.

Research contact: @Salon

Bunny, the dog that can ‘talk,’ starts asking existential questions

May 12, 2021

When Bunny, TikTok’s beloved talking Sheepadoodle, stared at herself in a mirror and asked “Who this?” using her augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device’s buttons, many followers believed she was having an existential crisis. Since then, the Internet-famous dog seemingly has become more interested in her own, dare we say,“sense of self,” Salon reports.

More recently on April 24, Alexis Devine, Bunny’s human parent—an artist based in Tacoma, Washington—has posted a video of Bunny pressing a button for “dog,” then a second button for “what,” a third button for “dog” and a fourth one for “is.” “Dog what dog is?” Devine narrated.

“This is happening so frequently that I’m going to add the buttons ‘animal’ ‘same’ and ‘different,'” Devine wrote in the caption which accompanied the Instagram post. 

The canine Bunny, who has 6.5 million followers on TikTok, is one of nearly 2,600 dogs and 300 cats enrolled in a project called “They Can Talk.” The study’s aim is to understand if animals can communicate with humans through AAC systems. AAC systems—such as Bunny’s giant labeled buttons that speak a single word when pressed—originally were designed to help humans with communication disorders. Yet they have been adapted to be used in language experiments with animals, such as the study Bunny is enrolled in, which is led by Federico Rossano, director of the Comparative Cognition Lab at the University of California–San Diego.

In Rossano’s study, participants receive instructions on how to set up their AAC buttons for their pets; generally, pets begin with easy words like “outside” and “play.” Pet parents set up cameras to constantly monitor the animals when they are in front of their boards—data that then is sent to the lab so that researchers examine what they say.

Now, Bunny’s followers have become obsessed with the notion that her language-learning is making her develop some kind of self-awareness. Is that possible?

And if so, does learning language have something to do with it?

“The question here is, is this a behavior that has been trained — like, look, I’m going to show you this individual here, this is ‘you’ or ‘dog,’ and don’t be afraid of it, and then over time the dog learns that,” Rossano told Salon. “Or to what degree is this spontaneous?”

If it is spontaneous, the research around the ethology for canines could get really interesting. Scientific evidence has previously suggested that dogs don’t recognize themselves in the mirror. The so-called mirror test is used to determine whether an animal has the ability of visual self-recognition, and is considered a marker of intelligence in animals. Elephants, chimpanzees, and dolphins are among the animals who have passed the test, but dogs typically don’t.

That might suggest dogs possess a lack of self-awareness. However, separate studies have shown that dogs can recognize their own scent, which hints at the opposite.

Péter Pongrácz, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Ethology at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary, was curious if the standard mirror test was sufficient enough to determine whether or not dogs have “self-representation”—which, as Pongrácz explained, is what ethologists prefer to call “self-awareness” in animals. This curiosity led Pongrácz and a team of researchers to study dogs’ “self-representation” in a test called “the body as an obstacle.” As a behavioral test, the dogs were tasked with picking up an object and giving it to their owners while standing on a small mat. However, the object was attached to the mat, forcing the dogs to leave the mat in order to lift the object.

“Dogs came off the mat more frequently and sooner in the test condition, than in the main control condition, where the object was attached to the ground,” the researchers write in a paper published in the peer-reviewed journal Scientific Reports published by Nature. “This is the first convincing evidence of body awareness through the understanding of the consequence of own actions in a species where previously no higher-order self-representation capacity was found.”

Pongrácz told Salon via email that the “body as an obstacle test” is more suitable for dogs, and perhaps, theoretically, could be for more species because animals are then forced “to negotiate physical challenges where their bodies can impede their actions.” Pongrácz added that mental capacity is “complicated” and should be thought of as something that consists of “several building blocks.”

“Dogs are large bodied, fast moving animals that live in a complex environment and they have a well-developed cognitive capacity; therefore, it was reasonable to hypothesize that they would benefit from being capable of understanding that they ‘have a body’ that can interact with the environment,” Pongrácz said.

“As our test proved this, yes, we can say that dogs are aware of their body—and, as body-awareness is part of the complex self-representation system, yes, they can be considered as being self-aware,” he added.

As an online spectator observing her, it is hard to deny that Bunny isn’t becoming more curious about what “dogs” are, as she has been recorded wandering over to her word board pressing “dog” and then “what.” Another time, she asked “dog” and then “why,” which humans might interpret as her asking why she’s a dog. Devine says on Instagram that this line of questioning occurs “regularly” now.

But as Rossano said, the tricky part is sussing out what is learned behavior and what is Bunny’s own doing. And that’s a separate question from whether the AAC device has influenced her sense of self. After all, as Pongrácz said, mental capacity is comprised of building blocks; language may be just another block.

“I think there’s a good reason to believe that Bunny is probably capable of a sense of self and recognizing herself in the mirror, but to what degree is spontaneous versus learned over repeated exposures, I would say it’s more likely to be the latter than the former,” Rossano said, adding that “self-awareness” wasn’t something they were interested in measuring at first in the “They Can Talk” study. But now, that’s changed.

“We know that language helps not just communicate with others, but also helps us categorize; and it also gives us some sense of consistency and continuity over time,” Rossano said. In other words, self-awareness and language could be connected, as

Rossano said a new, key interest of his study is whether or not dogs have a sense of

Research contact: @Salon

Report: Trump campaign siphoned donor money to his debt-strapped businesses after election loss

February 10, 2021

New financial disclosures have raised myriad questions about the Trump campaign’s post-election spending following #45’s loss to President Joe Biden last November, Salon reports.

Based on campaign finance disclosures, Trump’s re-election campaign spent at least $81,000 in donor money on Trump’s businesses. In addition, the Trump joint fundraising committee—which split its donations with the Republican National Committee—spent another $331,000 in donor funds following the election, according to an analysis by Forbes.

Trump and Republicans plowed millions into his businesses during and after his time in office, Salon notes: All told, the campaign paid at least $2.8 million to the Trump Organization and the joint fundraising committee spent another $4.3 million on Trump’s businesses between January 20, 2017 and December 31, 2020.

Specifically, Salon notes, the joint committee spent more than $300,000 for space, lodging and catering at Trump’s hotel business in the wake of his election loss. The campaign also spent tens of thousands to rent space at Trump Tower after November 3.

The campaign and the joint committee each also separately paid more than $30,000 for air travel to DT Endeavor, a company believed to be owned by Trump.

Trump has as much as $1 billion in business debt that will soon come due. A New York Times investigation into years of his tax returns showed that he has reported hundreds of millions in losses in recent years.

The campaign also reported paying $6,037 to Arizona State Representative Mark Finchem, a Republican who pushed to overturn Trump’s electoral defeat in the state, the Arizona Republic first reported. Finchem, who is not a lawyer, was paid for “legal consulting” in a “recount” effort through a company he did not include in his most recent financial disclosure, according to the campaign’s filings.

Finchem told the Republic that the payment was for costs related to “crowd control and security” for a meeting he held with Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani at a hotel on Nov. 30 about unfounded claims of election-rigging.

He later promoted the Trump rally that preceded the deadly January 6 Capitol riot and was set to speak outside the Capitol that day, according to the Arizona Republic.

Finchem, who said he never got within 500 yards of the Capitol building, posted a photo of a mob of Trump supporters on the Capitol steps, writing that it is “what happens when the People feel they have been ignored, and Congress refuses to acknowledge rampant fraud.”

Now, Newsweek reports, Arizona legislators are considering expelling Finchem from office—claiming he violated his oath and undermined democracy by attending the rally and promoting unfounded allegations of election fraud.

State Representative César Chávez, a Phoenix Democrat, filed an ethics complaint last month, arguing that Finchem’s social media posts “demonstrate beyond any doubt that he was participated in the insurrection in Washington, D.C. and supported others in their efforts.”

The left-leaning watchdog group Accountable.US said the financial disclosure suggested that Trump was “paying state legislators” to join his “two-month crusade to try and stay in power.”

“Mark Finchem must explain this payment from the Trump campaign and how it influenced his official work as a legislator to try and overturn a free and fair election,” a spokesperson told the Arizona Republic.

Meanwhile, Salon reports, while the latest disclosures shed some light on the campaign’s post-election spending, Trump is still sitting on much of the cash he raised from supporters—ostensibly meant to fund his election legal challenges. Trump raised more than $170 million after the election, after bombarding supporters with fundraising appeals; but most of the money went to a fundraising committee he set up after his defeat rather than his legal efforts.

Research contact: @Salon

Democrats are poised to retake the Senate: Warnock wins, Ossoff leads in Georgia runoffs

January 7, 2021

Democrats appear all but assured of retaking the Senate in with an electrifyingly clear victory in one Georgia runoff election and a likely win in the other, Salon reports.

Indeed, the Associated Press has projected the Reverend Raphael Warnock, pastor of Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, as the winner of his runoff election against Senator Kelly Loeffler (R); while Democrat Jon Ossoff holds a narrow lead over Republican incumbent Senator David Perdue (R) in their race, with most of the outstanding votes likely to come from heavily Democratic counties.

Warnock was projected to defeat Loeffler at around 2 a.m. (ET), and now holds a lead of around 52,000 votes with 98% of ballots counted, Salon notes.

Warnock holds a 1.2% lead that The New York Times projects to grow closer to 2% once all of the results are in, putting the race well clear of recount territory.

As of midday on Wednesday, the Ossoff race still was too close to call, although the Democrat was in the lead. Compared to Warnock, Ossoff leds Perdue by a much narrower margin of less than 16,000 votes, or 0.36%, although the outstanding votes are expected to push his lead closer to 1%, according to the Times forecast. Perdue can request a recount if the race finishes within 0.5%.

Decision Desk HQ, which provides election data to various news outlets, called the race for Ossoff at around 2 a.m. (ET) but the Associated Press and other major news sources still view the race as too close to call.

According to Salon, the night marks a stark reversal from November’s election and from decades of the state’s electoral history. Although President-elect Joe Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry the state in nearly 30 years, Perdue led Ossoff by about 88,000 votes in November but just failed to reach the 50% threshold needed to win outright. Biden’s victory margin over President Donald Trump was less than 12,000 votes, and it appears certain that both Democrats in the Senate runoffs will win by significantly more than that.

If Ossoff holds on, the Democrats would control 50 seats in the Senate. That would put them in the majority once Vice President-elect Kamala Harris takes over as president of the Senate and will give Democrats control of both chambers of Congress and the White House for the first time since early in Barack Obama’s first term.

“We were told that we couldn’t win this election,” Warnock said Tuesday in a victory speech delivered remotely on video. “But tonight we proved that with hope, hard work and the people by our side, anything is possible.”

Ossoff’s campaign manager Ellen Foster predicted that “when all the votes are counted we fully expect that Jon Ossoff will have won this election.”

Research contact: @Salon

Why Pence cannot ‘save’ Trump on January 6

January 31, 2020

Vice President Mike Pence has come under heavy pressure from President Donald Trump to back an unconstitutional scheme to overturn his Electoral College defeat (306-232) in a joint session of Congress on January 6. According to multiple reports, advisers have repeatedly had to explain to the president that the vice president’s role is merely ceremonial, Salon reports.

In addition to losing the general election by 7 million votes, Trump has lost every legal challenge after failing to show evidence of widespread fraud or irregularities and is now “laser-focused” on January 6, Igor Derysh of Salon notes.

Indeed, the outgoing president views the joint session of Congress as his “last stand for overturning the electoral outcome,” multiple administration officials told The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman. Trump has demanded that Pence “act” to stop the ratification of the Electoral College, according to CNN.

Trump has raged at Pence and top White House officials in recent days as they have pushed back on his doomed scheme and would view Pence carrying out his constitutional duty and validating the election result as “the ultimate betrayal,” according to Axios’ Jonathan Swan.

This pressure arguably puts Pence in a bind, since legally he cannot do anything to affect the result. The vice president reportedly plans to flee Washington for his first overseas trip since the coronavirus pandemic began right after the session.

“Pence’s constitutional role is to ‘open’ the certificates. That’s it,” said Harry Litman, a former Justice Department official and constitutional law expert at UCLA. “Not to certify. Not even technically to count. He has no way even to purport to change the count. It’d be like saying the Oscar presenters get to decide who wins best picture.”

Research contact: @Salon

Go with the Flowbee: George Clooney reveals how he cuts his hair

December 11, 2020

With salons largely closed, male grooming has been in freefall since the start of the spring lockdown—and DIY haircuts have proven less-than-successful for many who no longer cut a dashing profile.

However, one Hollywood star has shown that—even in a global pandemic and, in fact, even before that—bad hair is not the great equalizer we hoped it would be, The Guardian reports.

George Clooney, the 59-year-old actor and human rights activist, has admitted to successfully cutting his own hair at home using a device called a Flowbee—an electrically powered vacuum cleaner attachment for cutting hair that has been on the market since 1988,

“My hair’s really like straw, so it’s easy,” Clooney recently told CBS Sunday Morning.

According to Clooney—twice voted People magazine’s sexiest man alive—the $139.95 (£103) contraption is so reliable that he has been using it for more than 22 years—and not simply during 2020. “My haircuts take literally two minutes,” he said, adding that its speed and efficiency had afforded him time to stain the garage doors, mop the floors and do much of the family’s washing during lockdown in their Los Angeles home.

The Flowbee was a defining product of the 1980s infomercial boom in the US. It was designed in 1988 by Rick Hunts, a San Diego carpenter who was moved to invent the product after using his industrial vacuum cleaner to suck sawdust out of his hair. Hunts initially created and sold the gadget from his garage. But it was live demonstrations at a local county fair that edged him towards success, before global fame soon beckoned him, in the form of late-night TV demonstrations. By 2010, more than 2 million Americans had bought one.

But times have changed and, more recently, the product has needed a “spokesperson” like Clooney to remind Americans that it still exists: Google searches for Flowbee took off following Clooney’s weekend admission and the Flowbee website itself crashed, The Guardian reports.

But while his endorsement will no doubt lend invaluable celebrity cachet to the brand’s image, largely unchanged since the 1980s, the Clooney effect is not in fact wholly responsible for the product’s recent success: The lack of personal services during the pandemic and the sharp increase in bad hair days are two major factors.

As early as mid-March, the Flowbee had sold out on Walmart’s website and on Amazon. It is not available in the UK, according to Fortune magazine; and  Amazon says it doesn’t know when the item will be back in stock.

Research contact: @guardian