Donald Trump Jr.‘s new book, Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us, became a bestseller with the help of the Republican National Committee, according to the New York Times—a suspected assist that has angered critics since the book’s publication earlier this month.
On the day of Triggered‘s Nov. 5th release, the committee blasted out campaign emails that promised signed copies in exchange for donations. And when the book reached No. 1 on The New York Times‘ bestseller list, the ranking was annotated to specify that Triggered’s sales numbers included bulk orders.
“The RNC is giving away signed Donald Trump Jr. books to donors,” Zeke Miller, a White House reporter for the Associated Press, tweeted on Nov. 5. “This is a tactic that helps boost reported sales.”
Miller’s tweet included a screenshot of a campaign email from the RNC in which President Donald Trump‘s oldest son said that “Democrats are DESPERATELY rooting for my father to fail.”
Ending with red donation buttons, the email requested a contribution of $50 or more in exchange for a hand-signed copy of Triggered. (Unsigned hardcopies can be bought online for $17.98.)
The RNC is giving away signed Donald Trump Jr. books to donors. (This is a tactic that helps boost reported sales) pic.twitter.com/AvNozpspm5— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) November 5, 2019
Mike Reed, an RNC spokesman, told the Times that the committee had supported authors who weren’t candidates before, including Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker.
“Using books as a means to fund-raise is standard practice from political parties on both sides of the aisle,” Reed told the paper. “Triggered has been very popular among our supporters, helping us raise funds to support the re-election effort.”
On Nov. 13, Don Jr.’s book reached the coveted top spot on the Times‘ bestseller lists for “Combined Print & E-Book Nonfiction” and “Hardcover Nonfiction.” But the latter entry included a dagger symbol, which “indicates that some retailers report receiving bulk orders,” according to the Times.
Confirming critics’ accusations, the Times reported on Friday that the RNC paid $94,800 to Books-A-Million on Oct. 29. The information about the payment, which took place seven days before the book went on sale, was found in documents sent to the Federal Election Commission. Reed told the paper that the payment was for copies of Triggered. He also stood by his previous—and disparate—statement to the Times in which he had denied that the RNC made bulk orders. (“We haven’t made a large bulk purchase, but are ordering copies to keep up with demand,” he told the paper on Nov. 7.)
“The book has been hugely popular,” RNC spokesperson Michael Joyce said in part in a statement on Friday. “We have been making purchases to keep up with demand. We have netted $500,000 for the party by fundraising off the book. Using books as a means to fundraise is standard practice for both parties.”
The president’s son has also responded to the Times report.
“Don Jr. sold more books in his opening week than the number 2 and 3 nonfiction books on the New York Times list combined,” a spokesman for Don Jr. told PEOPLE in a statement on Friday. “You could erase all of the books sold through the RNC and that would still be a fact. If Don’s book was only successful because of so-called ‘bulk buys’ as some in the media have claimed, how do they square that with the fact that he also topped Amazon’s non-fiction charts in his opening week for books currently available and held multiple book signings across the country that sold 1000+ books a piece?”
The book’s publisher, Center Street, did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment about the RNC’s involvement in boosting book sales through bulk orders to support its own fundraising.
Though Don Jr. began writing Triggered before the House of Representatives began investigating his father for potential impeachment, the end result is part polemic, part defense of the president and part memoir about Don Jr.’s childhood as a Trump.
“First: I am not operating in my official capacity as a spokesman for my father’s campaign in these pages,” he writes in Triggered. “So if I were to say something like, oh, I don’t know, ‘Adam Schiff is a lying ass clown’ or ‘Robert Mueller is a feeble old fool who got used by the Democrats’—you know, if I were to hypothetically say those things—that’s all just my opinion. No one on the campaign has been consulted, and I doubt any of them would care very much anyhow. I’m just saying what they all know to be true but don’t want to take the heat for saying in public.”
Don Jr.’s barrage against Democrats and the news media continues for almost 300 pages, as he explains that he feels he and his father are under constant — and undeserved — attack.
Both the RNC and President Trump have taken to social media to support Triggered. Don Jr., who is running the family’s company with brother Eric and who is not technically a paid political operative or government official, is a regular surrogate for his dad on the campaign trail.
“Just finished reading my son Donald’s just out new book, Triggered. It is really good!” the president (known for his distaste for lengthy reading materials) tweeted on Saturday. “He, along with many of us, was very unfairly treated. But we all fight back, and we always win!”
The Trump campaign also promoted a clip from Don Jr.’s combative exchange with the hosts of The View last week, which was tied to the book’s release.
Just finished reading my son Donald’s just out new book, “Triggered.” It is really good! He, along with many of us, was very unfairly treated. But we all fight back, and we always win!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 9, 2019
Don Jr.’s book tour has also not been without some controversy. Beyond the expected protestors waving anti-Trump signs, at one event in California the president’s son got booed off stage by Trump supporters. Attendees voiced their displeasure after he refused to take questions, according to The Guardian.
A day after his View interview, however, Don Jr. attended a book-signing in Florida where he was met by hundreds of jubilant supporters and only a handful of protestors.
Online, critics were quick to jab at Don Jr. after he boasted about his book’s No. 1 status on Twitter, even as he and his father have routinely denounced the Times as fake news.
Many called out the fact that some of those bestselling sales came from bulk orders.
“You have to cheat at everything,” one user wrote back to him on Twitter.
thought y’all hated the New York Times thou?— dev (@hierophantess) November 13, 2019
The dagger means massive bulk orders. You have to cheat at everything. pic.twitter.com/u7GfyCsvET— BevMarie (@evenbev) November 14, 2019
Well look at this: lining your pockets again.https://t.co/ZB9M8Efrs0— Debbie (@Debbie56111656) November 13, 2019
The other authors got to their respective spots by selling individual units.— Edna ''I Want Nothing'' K. 🦃 (@EdnaK_) November 14, 2019
You got to #1 via a "bulk buy" which means someone bought thousands of copies to give away for free.#FakeNumber1
"When included, such bulk purchases appear with a dagger (†)."https://t.co/WE3Ys9nXOg
Trolling comedians have even gone so far as to swap out the cover of Triggered with one of their own making in a bookstore in N.Y.C., according to The Hill.
The new cover was Daddy, Please Love Me (with the subtitle “How everything I do is to try to earn my father’s love.”).
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“We did the stunt to reach Don Jr. It’s really sad to watch him try to earn his father’s love so publicly,” the duo, Jason Selvig and Davram Stiefler, known as The Good Liars, told The Hill in a statement. “It’s pretty obvious that President Trump doesn’t love him, and Junior’s attempts to get his father’s attention — dressing up as his father for Halloween and marrying a Fox News personality that looks conspicuously like Melania — have been really hard to watch.”