U.S. Senate candidate JD Vance speaks with prospective voters on the campaign trail on April 11, 2022 in Troy, Ohio. (Photo by Gaelen Morse / Getty Images)
Former President Donald Trump’s newest Senate endorsee was even less of a Trump fan than he’d publicly let on.
Back in 2016, during his #NeverTrump phase, Ohio Senate candidate and Hillbilly Elegy author JD Vance said Trump was either a “cynical asshole” or “America’s Hitler” in a private message to an old law school classmate.
It’s no secret that Vance, who won the coveted Trump endorsement last weekend, wasn’t a Trump fan back then–he publicly mocked Trump all year and refused to vote for him in the 2016 general election, and publicly called him “noxious,” “reprehensible,” and an “idiot” in October 2016.
But Vance went even further rhetorically in a private Facebook message he sent to Josh McLaurin, Vance’s old Yale Law School roommate, when McLaurin reached out to ask for his take on the GOP primary in February 2016.
“I think most people are not very ideological, and Trump, while I find him loathsome, touches a legitimate nerve. David Frum has an Atlantic piece on the Republican rebellion that you should check out. McLaurin replied that Vance was not surprised at Trump’s rise and that the party is to blame. We are the party of the lower-income and lower-education whites, regardless of whether or not we want it. I’ve been saying since a very long time that they need something (and maybe expand our appeal to the working-class black population in the process). Or a demagogue might. Now we are at this point. Trump is the fruit of the party’s collective neglect.”
Vance then said Trump was either like disgraced former President Richard Nixon–or Nazi leader Adolph Hitler.
“I go back and forth between thinking Trump is a cynical asshole like Nixon who wouldn’t be that bad (and might even prove useful) or that he’s America’s Hitler. “How’s that for discouragement?” Vance ends, asking McLaurin about his work.
Ohio Senate candidate and Hillbilly Elegy author JD Vance said Trump was either a “cynical asshole” or “America’s Hitler” in a private message to an old law school classmate. (Screenshots from Josh McLaurin)
Vance’s comments came a few days after Florida Sen. Marco Rubio fell apart during a 2016 New Hampshire presidential debate, all but ensuring Trump would win the state’s primary and make himself the prohibitive favorite to win the GOP nomination.
McLaurin, now a Democratic state representative in Georgia, tweeted a screenshot of part of that comment on Monday, and shared the full message with VICE News along with evidence that they were roommates and proof the message was legitimately from Vance. VICE News verified independently that Vance is friends with McLaurin on Facebook.
“I can’t believe how cynical he has become. McLaurin said that he is a intelligent man who understands what he does. “The public deserves to know also, so we can stop picking leaders who have so much disdain for the people they represent.”
Since sending those messages, Vance has pulled a complete flip-flop on Trump and apologized time and again for his past remarks.
“Like a lot of people, I criticized Trump back in 2016,” Vance said last summer. “And I ask folks not to judge me based on what I said in 2016, because I’ve been very open that I did say those critical things and I regret them, and I regret being wrong about the guy. I think he was a good president, I think he made a lot of good decisions for people, and I think he took a lot of flak.”
Vance’s campaign rolled its eyes at the “old news.”
“It’s laughable that the media treats JD not liking Trump 6 years ago as some sort of breaking news, when they’ve already covered it to death since this race began. In a statement, VICE News’ Jordan Wiggins, Campaign Manager for Vance, stated that Trump believes JD to be a true convert. He endorsed JD out of all Republican candidates and determined that JD was the strongest America First Conservative in the race. “Despite the leftwing media’s obsession with this old news, JD is proud to have President Trump’s support and will stand with him to fight back against the radical left and the establishment RINOs as Ohio’s next Senator.”
Trump even acknowledged Vance’s past criticism of him when he endorsed Vance last Friday.
“Like some others, JD Vance may have said some not so great things about me in the past, but he gets it now, and I have seen that in spades. “He is our best hope for victory in what may be a very difficult race,” he stated.
A spokesman for Trump didn’t respond to requests for comment on this message.