The rise and fall of the Lincoln Project

Understandably, many observers view the Lincoln Project as a study in doing politics in our digital age. Its founders were prolific tweeters, and the organization’s fundraising spiked in the wake of a presidential tweet. Yet for all its ostensible online savvy, for all the millions of social-media followers gleaned by its members, and for all the millions of dollars it raised online, the Lincoln Project was from birth to death a product of television. The primary validator and exponent of the group, the entity that blessed its mission and created its audience, remained Morning Joe. As soon as the Lincoln Project lost access to television, it began to wither and die.

By midsummer 2020, the New York Post was working to confirm that Weaver habitually groomed young men looking to work in politics, offering to mentor them and seeking sexual favors in return. In early August, with the Post closing in, the Lincoln Project announced that Weaver had been “admitted to the hospital after a cardiac problem.” Weaver withdrew from public life and the Post abandoned the story.

The group had dodged a proverbial bullet. According to later reporting by the New York Times, the group’s senior leadership had been made aware of Weaver’s behavior two months after the group had formed, but word had not leaked, and so Weaver remained part of Schmidt’s post-election media ambitions. In the interim, Schmidt, Wilson, and an expanding roster of new associates continued to flog the organization on MSNBC and CNN, in the pages of America’s liberal magazines and newspapers, and across the Web itself. November came and went, as did the decisive Senate runoff elections in Georgia.

Eventually, however, the Internet struck back. Frustrated with a lack of movement by the Post, and concerned by the Lincoln Project’s grandiose plans to transform into a media empire, several of the men Weaver had targeted came forward on Twitter in January 2021.