Jonathan Krohn, the teen conservative idol turned liberal heretic, is on the receiving end of a world of abuse from right wing pundits this week. Fine by him. But please folks, lay off his mom.
“My mother had a friend today who said she can’t be friends anymore because of me,” said Krohn, who described her as close to tears. “She texted her and said ‘Have a nice life.’ It’s a friend she’s known since before I was born!” Krohn told TPM Tuesday.
Republicans had largely forgotten about Krohn since turning him into a star speaker and author in 2009 at the tender age of 13. But that didn’t mean they were happy to let him go, reacting to a Politico interview in which he said he now supported President Obama with a torrent of unrestrained rage.
The Daily Caller led the charge. Gregg Re started things offwith a profanity-filled screed from a spurned conservative who attended Krohn’s big CPAC speech in 2009 and apparently demanded anonymity to tell Re the 17-year-old was a “douche.”
Re then took to Twitter to snipe at Krohn for expressing his views while denying his article — “Tired Of Being Typecast As Conservative, ‘Douche’ Actor and CPAC speaker Jonathan Krohn Turns to Liberalism — was meant as an attack.
“If I’d given a speech as devoid of thought as [Krohn] (and made money from it), I’d call myself a douche,” Daily Caller intern Justin Green chimed in.
Another Daily Caller editor, Peter Tucci, wrote an op-ed praising Krohn’s “intellectual integrity” but adding that much of his criticism was nontheless “deserved.” Soon after, however, he joined in a sparring match of his own with Krohn on Twitter, dropping repeated references to his “hipster glasses” and throwing out such witty barbs as “Oops, I overestimated you. You’re not mature after all. I take back my praise.”
Krohn told TPM he takes the attacks in stride. He spent much of Tuesday engaging with critics and supporters alike on Twitter, in between a stop at his grandmother’s 80th birthday and a haircut ahead of his appearance on Hardball that evening.
“Nothing’s really stung me, all of its just so absurd,” he said. “My favorite was someone who tweeted at me ‘You betrayed God and William Bennett, you little bastard!’ Because apparently they’re on the same plateau in this person’s mind.”
He laughed off charges from conservative critics that he had cashed in by deceiving them, saying the money he earned was modest at best. The only significant cash generator was his book and the money went entirely to his college savings. Even with a generous scholarship, he said the funds will only cover only a portion of his tuition at NYU next year.
“Conservative teen pundit is not as lucrative a job as it sounds, you should probably look into getting a degree in something else,” he said.
Krohn hoped his recent re-emergence would mark a clean break from his mini-conservative days, allowing him to craft a new identity as a budding philosophy student and filmmaker. He’s currently hard at work at a screenplay for a feature, “Broke in New York,” which he says has gotten rave reviews from friends who’ve seen early drafts.
“It’s really a postmodern satire, kind of a dark satire of modern American life,” he said. “It’s 9 different vignettes revolving around 9 different people in New York, some are very absurd characters.”
As for another running attack online — that he’s only changing his political views to get the girls — Krohn says life hasn’t changed much in that department.
“There weren’t any ladies in the conservative pundit phase, there are not much now,” he said. “I’m still a white Jewish nerd, I mean come on.”
He is looking forward to trying out the party scene at NYU. “All within moderation, of course,” he added.
Update: Tucci e-mailed TPM to insist that his remarks were “a moderate’s light-hearted Twitter debate about hipsterism” and meant in jest, requesting the passage referring to him be deleted. Krohn didn’t take it that way, however, complaining about Tucci’s references to his glasses on CNN on July 9, and saying it was equivalent to calling him “four eyes.”
Update: Tucci later buried the hatchet with Krohn by e-mail, who said he accepted his apology.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.