In October 2016, the Las Vegas Review-Journal was the first major newspaper to endorse then — candidate Donald Trump for president. While Trump “represents neither the danger his critics claim nor the magic elixir many of his supporters crave,” the editorial page wrote, he promised to disrupt the status-quo in Washington by bringing a “corporate sensibility and a steadfast determination to an ossified Beltway culture.”
Four years later, the Review-Journal — owned by Trump supporter and Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson — is advising Trump that he did indeed lose the 2020 presidential race, and that he should start cooperating with President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team.
“President Donald Trump seeks to delay the inevitable,” reads the headline of the editorial, which appeared in print Thursday and published online Wednesday night. “It is too fitting that the Trump presidency concludes amid a babel of bluster and bravado,” the unbylined authors, representing the viewpoint of the paper’s management, wrote. “But the president does a disservice to his more rabid supporters by insisting that he would have won the Nov. 3 election absent voter fraud. That’s simply false.”
The editorial goes on to state “there is no evidence” that fraud cost Trump the election, “no matter how much the president tweets the opposite and his supporters wish it so.”
Other newspapers have also run editorials demanding Trump stop peddling mass fraud claim without evidence, but the advice from the Review-Journal drew attention well beyond Las Vegas in part because of Adelson’s ownership of the newspaper.
The billionaire Las Vegas casino magnate, who stealthily bought the paper in December 2015, has been a steadfast Trump backer and the top Republican donor through the past two presidential election seasons. He and his wife, physician Miriam Adelson, poured $183 million into the 2020 cycle, including giving $75 million to a pro-Trump super PAC in late August. But Politico reported in August that Trump had a contentious phone call with Adelson, in which the president criticized the billionaire for not doing enough to help his re-election.
Previously, the Trump White House had bestowed official accolades to the Adelsons, including the widely critized move of giving Miriam Adelson a Presidential Medal of Freedom — the nation’s highest civilian honor — citing her philanthropy and research in narcotic addiction.
This week’s Review-Journal editorial does sound a somewhat sympathetic tone to Trump, writing that his campaign is “within its rights” to ask for recounts and that Trump “faced an overtly hostile press” and an anti-Trump political establishment.
But then it offered a reality check: “Mr. Trump lost this election because he ultimately didn’t attract enough votes and failed to win a handful of swing states that broke his way in 2016.”
“An electoral system that involves the participation of 150 million Americans will have its share of issues, but it’s an insult to reason and logic to argue that isolated irregularities constitute proof of a grand national conspiracy,” it continues. The editorial also noted one of the most obvious signs there wasn’t a national conspiracy to steal votes for Trump: Democrats underperformed in House races, and the Senate may very well remain in Republican control under majority leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky.
The editorial acknowledged Trump is unlikely to stop fighting against the results, but “he has nothing to lose” by cooperating with Biden’s transition team, and the former vice president “deserves the same consideration” offered to Trump in 2016 by then-President Barack Obama.
The Review-Journal is the largest newspaper in Nevada, where the Trump campaign has claimed thousands voted improperly while offering no credible evidence. Most news organizations projected on Saturday that Biden will win Nevada’s six electoral votes. As of Thursday, Biden leads Trump by more than 36,000 votes.
While a handful of newspapers endorsed Trump in 2016 prior to the Review-Journal, the Nevada newspaper was the first with a circulation of over 100,000 to do so. It also endorsed Trump in 2020.
It’s unclear what role exactly Adelson played in this week’s editorial. (The newspaper’s publisher did not immediately return The Washington Post’s inquiry). But a 2015 Review-Journal editorial explored how the editorial page could change after Adelson’s purchase, noting that the page has long had a libertarian/conservative tilt and presidential endorsements would unlikely change.
“Newspaper owners aren’t supposed to interfere with news content. But it’s perfectly appropriate for them to seize full control of the editorial page and steer the philosophy of their editorial board,” it read. “The Las Vegas Review-Journal’s editorial page can become his family’s personal soap box, if that’s what they want.”