Less than two weeks out before Americans choose their next president, indy100 caught up with the man many hold responsible for Donald Trump's candidacy.
In February 2013, less than a month since Obama's second inauguration as president of the united states, Russ Steinberg took some Trump bait.
Since that day, people have blamed Steinberg for Trump's elevation to Republican nominee, and potentially even the presidency.
The tweet has resurfaced as election day draws nearer. How often do people get in touch?
The first time, it was after Now This found and retweeted it, then did a video with me about it. This time has been more intense because it was picked up by a bunch of meme aggregators, so the audience it reached was much bigger.
What initially prompted the exchange with Trump in 2013?
I remember the exchange pretty clearly. He was going on a long anti-Obama rant that was annoying the hell out of me. This was also just a few months after he had decided not to run for president in 2012. Even at the time, I knew how incredibly thin-skinned he is and I wanted to tweet something at him that might get under his skin. I don’t know why I even thought he’d read it and respond. So I took something that I knew was clearly not true (that he hates America) and suggested he run for President (which he had just chickened out of doing). I figured the absurdity in what I was saying might draw a response from him, and of course it did.
Were you expecting to get this reaction as Trump's support climbed in the polls?
It’s funny. Before Now This found it, someone would find that tweet every once in a while and retweet it. My mentions would be funny for a couple hours, then I’d move on. Once I actually decided to do the video, I knew there was no turning back. I might as well embrace all the reactions, both good and bad. As he continued to stick around, my only real thought in relation to the tweet was how much longer I’d have to deal with it in my Twitter mentions. Now that he’s on the verge of being blown out, I imagine it will stop, or at least slow down, in a few weeks.
Who will you be voting for?
I support Secretary Clinton. She is far from perfect, but she’s the only adult in the room right now. Aside from liking her politics, she is the only candidate with the experience, intelligence, and emotional capability to be the most powerful person in the world. I’m with her.
Have you had any serious abuse from Clinton or Trump supporters?
I’ve gotten physical threats from both Clinton and Trump supporters. It got particularly bad over the last couple weeks once the meme accounts picked up the exchange, mainly because that tends to be a much less mature audience. For the most part, I block and report the Twitter accounts and move on with my day.
But many of the Trump supporters are also rabid anti-semites who see my last name and assume I’m Jewish. The abuse I’ve gotten from them has been particularly jarring…slurs I never thought I’d read and insults that would have never occurred to me in a million years. But that’s Donald Trump’s base. That’s the crowd that he plays to.
The majority of responses are people saying either “it’s all your fault” or “I blame you.” That’s starting to annoy me mainly because it’s people thinking they’re posting something clever, when in reality I get something like that probably once every hour. Give me something new to read!
Has Trump or the Republican party been in touch with you since it went viral?
No, of course not. I’ve been pretty open about my dislike for Trump on Twitter, probably more than I should be. I’ve also made it no secret that I find Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio's support of him to be repulsive. I don’t think there’s any wing of the Republican party that would have any interest in talking to me.
Do you plan to use your powers to elevate anyone else to their party’s nomination? Or perhaps the presidency?
Like I said...people actually believe I have these powers! Believe me, if I could actually influence elections, Donald Trump would not be the Republican nominee. I would have used my powers to insert almost anyone else, even if it came at the cost of a Clinton victory. That’s how destructive I think he would be in the Oval Office. That said, if either party wants my advice on 2020 or beyond, I am happy to give it, despite my utter lack of qualification.
To see the video Russ made for NowThis, click here.