Since Donald Trump began to gain prominence in last year’s election cycle, how to cover candidates and vouch for basic facts began to shift rapidly. Cut to Trump’s win and the subsequent cascade of scandals, and whatever existent media rulebook before the most unconventional president in history has undergone major revisions–including at The Onion.
Like comedians and late-night hosts, the team at The Onion found itself in the precarious position of satirizing a reality where not only truth is exponentially stranger than fiction, but damning headlines surrounding Trump’s administration break on a near-daily basis. The Onion‘s answer: just leak everything.
“The Trump Documents” is a WikiLeaks-style deluge of 117 satirical White House memos, emails, and audio clips concerning Trump and his staff that’s been in the works since Trump’s inauguration.
“We were feeling like it was a constant race to keep up with satirizing him–it’s difficult not because he’s a hard person to satirize but because there’s just so much to satirize about him,” says Cole Bolton, editor-in-chief of The Onion. “So instead of just doing these quick hits about this scandal or this person in his inner circle, we wanted to take a big swipe that was more comprehensive, and we hit on the idea of document leaks because it seems like a very Zeitgeist-y way that major news stories are being broken nowadays.”
Bolton says there’s a possibility of adding to “The Trump Documents” in the future, but for the time being, it will exist as is, foremost as a new format for The Onion‘s brand of satire, as well as an extensive companion to the site’s daily coverage.
“The most surprising thing about it was that he won the election, but after that, we knew what we could expect in the way he behaved and that the revelations that came to light during the campaign were probably not going to stop. But being unsurprised by that doesn’t make us any less tired by it,” Bolton says. “What we were looking for in ‘The Trump Documents’ was to take that big swing because it felt like we were staring down the barrel of four years of just an incredible amount of satire we’d have to write and it felt like this was a great way to do that.”