Donald Trump vs. Donald Cyphers

montana news cyphersReports last week that Donald Trump called media outlets years ago claiming under another name to be his own publicist brought back memories of my first encounter with Donald Cyphers.

While I have never been as obsessed with Cyphers as Ed Kemmick is, I wrote a series of columns for the Billings Outpost about his legal and financial irregularities after he took over the weekly Lockwood Crier and converted it to the Montana News Association. For a while, I was Cyphers’ Enemy No. 1.

Those columns are no longer available on the web (you can find a few quotes here)  but I recall that when I first heard about the change in ownership of the Crier, I called and was connected to a man who identified himself as “Mark Johnson.” He went on for 25 minutes or so about all of the great resources Cyphers’ company had, how they planned to make the Crier a national publication and all of the groundbreaking reporting they had in mind.

Later, after I had reported that nearly none of that was true, I got a call from someone who suggested that Mark Johnson was a pseudonym for Cyphers, and that I actually had talked to Cyphers. Even at this distance, it’s hard to prove that’s true, but I gradually become convinced that the caller was right, especially after all further attempts to track down Mark Johnson failed.

I would not put Trump in the same category as Cyphers (although both seem to have the same ambiguous relationship to the truth), but I do recall that when I first heard Cyphers was Johnson, that did not make me think that Cyphers would make a great president. It made me think that he was a charlatan, unsafe for public consumption.

And when I hear Trump supporters defend his telephone role playing as a harmless joke played on gullible media, that doesn’t make me dismiss this story as just another oddity in his strange history. It makes me think that it is his supporters who are gullible.


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