I Did Not Think That Politico Could Get Any Worse

Matthew G. Saroff
3 min readSep 7, 2022

This does not read like a joke, but nothing does in German

The shallow, beat sweetening, click chasing publication, dubbed Tiger Beat on the Potomac by the invaluable Charlie Pierce may actually be getting worse, because it has been purchased by Hunter S. Thompson wannabee Mathias Dopfner, who has described his goal as contrarian.

As I have noted before contrarianism is what stupid people do to sound smart:

Months after his company bought Politico, Mathias Döpfner stood atop Axel Springer’s 19-story headquarters, gazing out at the double row of cobblestones that mark the outline of the demolished Berlin Wall, and explained his global ambitions. “We want to be the leading digital publisher in democracies around the world,” he said.

A newcomer to the community of billionaire media moguls, Döpfner is given to bold pronouncements and visionary prescriptions. He’s concerned that the American press has become too polarized — legacy brands like the New York Times and The Washington Post drifting to the left, in his view, while conservative media falls under the sway of Trumpian “alternative facts.” So in Politico, the fast-growing Beltway political journal, he sees a grand opportunity.

“We want to prove that being nonpartisan is actually the more successful positioning,” he said in an interview with The Washington Post. He called it his “biggest and most contrarian bet.”

How exactly Döpfner, Axel Springer’s CEO, hopes to define nonpartisan journalism at an especially fragmented time for American politics is a question of intense interest as he aims to leave his mark on American media. His own politics have remained something of a mystery, too. But weeks before the 2020 U.S. presidential election, he sent a surprising message to his closest executives, obtained by The Washington Post:

“Do we all want to get together for an hour in the morning on November 3 and pray that Donald Trump will again become President of the United States of America?”


Asked about the email, Döpfner initially responded with a forceful denial. “That’s intrinsically false,” he said. “That doesn’t exist. It has never been sent and has never been even imagined.”

When shown a printout of the text, Döpfner allowed a glimmer of recognition. It’s possible, he said, that he may have sent the email “as an ironic, provocative statement in the circle of people that hate Donald Trump,” because that’s exactly the kind of ironic, provocative thing that Döpfner, a garrulous and enthusiastic texter, likes to do.

“That is me,” he said. “That could be.”

This man is a professional asshole, and a bald faced liar, and in the most charitable assessment that I can offer, to the degree he was joking, it was a statement that Trump is good for business, because he is so outrageous.

It sounds to me that the sh%$ show known as Politico is about to turn a corner into a full blown John Snow cholera infested water pump.