Hunter S. Thompson Would Be "Enraged" Over Trump, Fake News Debate, Son Says
"Nixon may not have liked how he was covered, but he never, at least to my knowledge, just dismissed all of mainstream media as fake news," Juan Thompson says.
If Hunter S. Thompson were alive today, he would likely be doing some of his best work in combating President Donald Trump, his son, Juan, believes.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the only child of the renowned late author and Gonzo journalist discussed the importance of modern journalism, his father's contempt for another president with parallels to Trump and what would have been his father's complete bafflement with the state of America.
"Hunter would have been absolutely furious and also deeply, deeply depressed at the reality of a large minority in this country deciding that Trump should be president," Thompson, also a published author, says. "One of the really important aspects of Hunter was his idealism, which was stated clear in his political writings, which was at the root of his loathing for Richard Nixon."
The elder Thompson, who took his own life at his home in Woody Creek, Colo., in 2005, never shied away from his hatred for Nixon, even writing in an obituary for the 37th president who died in 1994, "His body should have been burned in a trash bin."
Even before Trump became the 45th president of the United States last month, parallels to Nixon were being drawn, including Nixon's disdain for the press, which Trump has taken to a whole new, and in Thompson's opinion, dangerous level.
"Nixon may not have liked how he was covered, but he never, at least to my knowledge, just dismissed all of mainstream media as fake news," Thompson points out.
Another parallel between the two men is the recent firing of Attorney General Sally Yates by President Trump last week over his highly controversial refugee ban. In 1973, Nixon fired the independent Watergate special prosecutor, then his attorney general resigned.
"But Trump makes Nixon almost heroic in that Trump doesn't have any interest whatsoever in the business of governing, which at least Nixon took seriously," Thompson says. "Nixon used the powers of the presidency for his own political ends and he seemed to think he was justified."
The late Thompson followed Nixon's Democratic challenger, the late George McGovern, and chronicled what would become Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 about his experiences along the way.
Nixon winning re-election was devastating to Thompson, which his son uses as a way to gauge how his father would be handling the state of the country now.
"It's in the article he wrote the day after Nixon won re-election, that line 'maybe we are just a country of 220 million used car salesmen,'" said Juan. "And I have thought had he been alive to see Trump be elected, I wondered could he have borne it? The depth of that betrayal of sanity and reason. And the on the other hand, it might have energized him and led to some great writing. Still, he'd be enraged."
Now, the battleground for the future of journalism has been clearly laid out, as far as the younger Thompson is concerned.
"The scariest possible outcome is that people no longer care what is actually true, and then who are journalists writing for?" he says, "What has been encouraging is Trump's attacks have energized some outlets like the Washington Post and The New York Times, which recently used the word 'lie' in a headline."
He continued: "That's a really difficult thing for me to wrap my head around, the idea that facts don't matter, that all that matters is what you want to believe. The risk is that if people lose interest in what is true, then would-be journalists may think, 'Well I just don't want to write propaganda.' I think what motivates a lot of journalists is to discover the truth and make that known to people."
Still, Hunter would have persevered, his son has no doubt.
"I would sure welcome his pure anger and ability to really capture the essence of Nixon. He wasn't just angry, he really nailed him down," Thompson says. "And by God, we really need that now. The question is, who would listen besides the people who already agree?"