Scoundrel Time

A Plea to Donald J. Trump from an Actual Witch Hunter

Dear Mr. Trump,

On behalf of witch hunters the world over—and we do work on every continent but Antarctica, where we’re currently trying to establish a field office—I urge you to please stop referring to every investigation of your malfeasance as a “witch hunt.” Your overreliance on this venerated term suggests not only a lack of creativity on your part, but also a profound misunderstanding of who we witch hunters are, and the important service we provide to our communities.

During the first three years of your presidency, you tweeted the phrase “witch hunt” 337 times, in response to topics ranging from the Mueller investigation, to the busting of your cronies Manafort and Gates, to the FBI investigation of your fixer, Michael Cohen. Your tweet on May 18, 2017, the day after Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel, was especially offensive to witch hunters: “This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!” I mean, haven’t you heard of the impressive communist witch hunt led by Senator McCarthy? As a veteran witch hunter, I can tell you that guy was bringing his A game while you were still in short pants. Have you no sense of decency?

And remember Tricky Dick Nixon, who used the phrase “witch hunt” to characterize the Watergate investigation? It’s not like Nixon showed actual signs of being a witch—like having a third nipple or living next door to people who are unable to conceive children—he was just your garden variety crook. You seem to be a lot like Tricky Dick, though a little less tricky and a lot more dicky, what with the whole Stormy Daniels mess, and the twentysome women who’ve accused you of sexual assault, and the whole p**** grabbing fiasco. Don’t you know that, historically, we witch hunters prefer to persecute women? Please don’t tell me you’ve been bumping uglies with Satan or his succubi. As a dude, you’ve got more nerve than a bad tooth to cast yourself as the object of a proper witch hunt. Everybody knows that real men aren’t witches.

If you believe you’re being persecuted as a witch, then you must have skipped more than a couple days of school. Don’t you remember the Salem witchcraft trials? Didn’t your teacher at that fancy private school assign The Crucible? It’s common knowledge that folks accused of witchcraft are usually marginalized outsiders targeted for their unorthodox religious beliefs or some other courageous form of dissent. Come on, man, this stuff is witch hunting 101! How do you get from leader of the free world and Florida resort dwelling involuntarily retired golf playing millionaire to pitiable victim?

If you need a quick lesson in witch hunting, let me point out that our noble profession is at least as old as the Roman Empire. But the heyday of witch hunting, when my ancestors got involved in what has been the family business ever since, was the three sweet centuries from 1450-1750, when we witch hunters tortured and killed around 50,000 people. I’m talking strangling, hanging, burning, stoning, drowning, and plenty more—really innovative and creative stuff! I’m proud to say that I’m a direct descendant of the guy who invented the famous “swimming test” for accused witches, which gives me a ton of street cred with other witch hunters. We witch hunters, doctors, finders, and sniffers are an ancient guild of deeply committed and highly trained professionals. We even have an annual conference in—you guessed it—Las Vegas!

A lot of folks aren’t aware that witch hunting didn’t end in the eighteenth century. And I’m not just talking lightweight stuff here, like torturing albinos or barren women, or persecuting Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor, or AIDS victims in the eighties. Real witch hunts are still being conducted today, and we even secure an execution now and then. So you can see that when you repeatedly misuse the term, it leaves the public confused about what a witch hunt actually is, and we witch hunters don’t appreciate you maligning our honest profession by spreading misinformation about our work. Fake news!

When you left the White House, did you finally quit wearing out the term “witch hunt”? On the contrary! A request by Congress to review your tax returns was called a witch hunt, as was the FBI’s wish not to have the nuclear launch codes stored at Mar-a-Lago along with cartons of pancake batter. The January 6 congressional committee examining your plan to advance slates of fake electors—that was a witch hunt too. And the various criminal tax fraud charges against the Trump Organization (almost a flashback to the witch hunt of Trump University). And now your indictment on the charge of falsifying records associated with your hush money payments to a porn star, and the inquiry in Fulton County, Georgia into your election meddling, and the Justice Department special counsel investigations into your pilfering of classified documents and your incitement of the January 6 insurrection at the capitol. And now that a jury of your peers has found you guilty of sexual abuse, all you can come up with is to say that the verdict is “a continuation of the greatest witch hunt of all time!” You seem to see witch hunts everywhere! I mean, we do get around, but when you give us credit for everything all at once it dilutes the whole concept. Don’t you know that we don’t go about these things willy nilly?

Witch hunting is serious, important work, so we’d appreciate it if you would show some respect for those of us who see witch hunting not just as our job but as our calling. At this point, witchcraft is about the only thing you haven’t been accused of, so why not give your histrionic claim a rest? Because you’re the persecutor and not the persecuted here, we respectfully request that you please just focus on your golf swing and leave future declarations of witch hunts to qualified professionals.

Sincerely yours on behalf of hardworking witch hunters everywhere,

Michael P. Branch


An award-winning humorist and high desert writer, Michael P. Branch is Foundation Professor at the University of Nevada, Reno. Mike is the author of more than 300 essays and reviews, which have appeared in venues including CNN,  San Francisco ChronicleSlateOutsidePacific Standard,  Huffington Post,  Bustle,  Utne ReaderOrionEcotone,  National Parks,  The Scientist,  High Country News,,  and Places Journal. Mike has published 10 books, including Raising WildRants from the Hill, and How to Cuss in Western. His creative nonfiction includes pieces recognized as Notable Essays in The Best American EssaysThe Best Creative NonfictionThe Best American Science and Nature Writing, and The Best American Non-required Reading. Mike’s 2022 book, On the Trail of the Jackalope, has been called “an entertaining and enlightening road trip to the heart of an American legend.”


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