Matt Taibbi

Matthew C. Taibbi (/tˈbi/; born March 2, 1970) is an American author, journalist, and podcaster. He has reported on finance, media, politics, and sports. He is a contributing editor for Rolling Stone, author of several books, co-host of Useful Idiots, and publisher of a newsletter on Substack.

Matt Taibbi
Taibbi in Philadelphia in 2008
Matthew C. Taibbi

(1970-03-02) March 2, 1970 (age 51)
EducationConcord Academy
Alma materBard College (B.A.)
OccupationJournalist, author, podcaster
Years active1991–present[1]
Notable work
Griftopia (2010)
The Divide (2014)
Insane Clown President (2017)
I Can't Breathe (2017)
Hate Inc. (2019)

Taibbi began as a freelance reporter in the former Soviet Union, including a period in Uzbekistan, from where he was deported for criticizing President Islam Karimov. Taibbi later worked as a sports journalist for the English-language newspaper The Moscow Times. He also played professional baseball in Uzbekistan and Russia as well as professional basketball in Mongolia. Taibbi also worked for a short time as an investigator at a Boston-based private detective agency. In 1997, he moved back to Russia to edit the tabloid Living Here, but eventually left to co-edit rival tabloid The eXile. Taibbi returned to the United States in 2002 and founded the Buffalo-based newspaper The Beast. He left in 2003 to work as a columnist for the New York Press. In 2004, Taibbi began covering politics for Rolling Stone.[3][4]

In 2008, Taibbi won a National Magazine Award for three columns he wrote for Rolling Stone.[5] In 2019, he launched the podcast Useful Idiots, co-hosted by Katie Halper. In 2020, he began self-publishing his online writing, while still contributing to the Useful Idiots podcast and the print edition of Rolling Stone.

Taibbi has authored several books, including The Great Derangement (2009); Griftopia (2010); The Divide (2014); Insane Clown President (2017);[6] I Can't Breathe (2017); and Hate Inc. (2019).

Taibbi is known for his brazen style, having branded Goldman Sachs a "vampire squid" in a 2009 article. His work often has drawn comparisons to the gonzo journalism of writer Hunter S. Thompson, who also covered politics for Rolling Stone.[7][8][9][10]

Early life and education

Matt Taibbi was born in 1970 in New Brunswick, New Jersey.[2] Taibbi's father, Mike Taibbi ( Loren Ames Denny), is an NBC television reporter of mixed Filipino and Native Hawaiian descent[11] who was adopted by an Italian-American couple.[12] According to Matt, the surname Taibbi is a Sicilian name of Lebanese origin; however, Taibbi is neither of Sicilian nor Lebanese descent because his father was adopted.[13][14] Taibbi is also of Irish descent through his mother.[15]

He grew up in the Boston, Massachusetts suburbs and attended Concord Academy in Concord, Massachusetts. He attended New York University, but transferred after his freshman year to Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York and graduated in 1992.[16][17] He also spent a year abroad studying at Leningrad State Polytechnic Institute in Saint Petersburg, Russia.



In the early 1990s, Taibbi moved from Saint Petersburg to Tashkent, Uzbekistan, where he began selling news articles more regularly. He was deported in 1992 for writing an article for the Associated Press that was critical of President Islam Karimov. At the time of his deportation, Taibbi was the starting left fielder for the Uzbek national baseball team.[18][3][1]


Taibbi moved to Ulan Bator, Mongolia for a time in the mid-1990s, where he played professional basketball in the Mongolian Basketball Association (MBA), which, he says, is the only basketball league outside the United States that uses the same rules as the NBA. Taibbi became known as "The Mongolian Rodman", was paid $100/month to play, and says he also hosted a radio show while there.[19][20][21] He later contracted pneumonia and returned to Boston for surgery.[22]


Taibbi moved to Russia in 1992.[23] He lived and worked in Russia and the former USSR for more than six years. He joined Mark Ames in 1997 to co-edit the English-language Moscow-based, bi-weekly free newspaper, The eXile, which was written primarily for the city's expatriate community. The eXile's tone and content were highly controversial. To some, its commentary was brutally honest and gleefully tasteless; others considered it juvenile, misogynistic, and even cruel.[24][25][26] In the U.S. media during this time, Playboy magazine published pieces on Russia both by Taibbi and by Taibbi and Ames together. In 2000, Taibbi published his first book, The Exile: Sex, Drugs, and Libel in the New Russia, co-authored with Ames. He later stated that he was addicted to heroin while he did this early writing.[27]

Journalist Kathy Lally wrote in The Washington Post in December 2017 that she and other female journalists were subjected to misogynistic attacks by Taibbi and Ames while she was a correspondent in Moscow in the 1990s. Lally contacted Taibbi in 2017, and he told her, "I certainly would not go about things now the way I did back then," and "I apologize for the physical descriptions. That was gratuitous and uncalled for."[28]

In 2017, Taibbi came under fire for excerpts from a chapter in the book written by Ames that described sexual harassment of employees at The eXile.[29] In a Facebook post responding to the controversy, Taibbi apologized for the "cruel and misogynistic language" used in the book, but said the work was conceived as a satire of the "reprehensible" behavior of American expatriates in Russia and that the description of events in the chapter was "fictional and not true".[30] Although the book includes a note saying that it is a work of non-fiction,[31] emails obtained by Paste magazine in 2017 include a representative of the publisher, Grove Press, saying the "statement on the copyright page is incorrect. This book combines exaggerated, invented satire and nonfiction reporting and was categorized as nonfiction because there is no category for a book that is both."[32]

In 2017, two women portrayed in the book told Walker Bragman of Paste that none of the sexual harassment portrayed in the book "ever happened".[32]

United States

In 2002, he returned to the U.S. to start the satirical bi-weekly The Beast in Buffalo, New York. He left that publication, saying that "Running a business and writing is too much." Taibbi continued as a freelancer for The Nation, Playboy, New York Press (where he wrote a regular political column for more than two years), Rolling Stone, and New York Sports Express (as Editor at Large).

In March 2005, Taibbi's satirical essay, "The 52 Funniest Things About the Upcoming Death of the Pope",[33] published in the New York Press, was denounced by Hillary Clinton, Michael Bloomberg, Matt Drudge, Abe Foxman, and Anthony Weiner. He left the paper in August 2005, shortly after his editor Jeff Koyen was forced out over the article.[34] Taibbi defended the piece as "off-the-cuff burlesque of truly tasteless jokes," written to give his readers a break from a long run of his "fulminating political essays". Taibbi also said he was surprised at the vehement reactions to what he wrote "in the waning hours of a Vicodin haze".[35]

Taibbi became a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, writing feature-length articles on domestic and international affairs. He also wrote a weekly political online column, entitled "The Low Post", for the magazine's website.[36]

Taibbi covered the 2008 presidential campaign for Real Time with Bill Maher.[37] He was invited as a guest on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show[38] and other MSNBC programs. He has also appeared on Democracy Now![39] and Chapo Trap House,[40] and served as a contributor on Countdown with Keith Olbermann.[41] Taibbi has appeared on the Thom Hartmann radio and television shows, and the Imus in the Morning Show on the Fox Business network.

Journalist James Verini said that while interviewing Taibbi in a Manhattan restaurant for Vanity Fair, Taibbi cursed and threw some coffee at him, and then accosted him as he tried to get away, all in response to Verini's volunteered opinion that Taibbi's book, The Exile: Sex, Drugs, and Libel in the New Russia, was "redundant and discursive".[42] The interview took place in 2010, and Taibbi later described the incident as "an aberration from how I've behaved in the last six or seven years".[43]

After the death of conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart, in March 2012, Taibbi wrote an obituary in Rolling Stone, entitled "Andrew Breitbart: Death of a Douche".[44][45] Many conservatives were angered by the obituary, in which Taibbi wrote, "Good! Fuck him. I couldn't be happier that he's dead.", although Taibbi claimed that it was "at least half an homage", claiming respect for aspects of Breitbart's style, but also alluding to Breitbart's own derisive obituary of Ted Kennedy.

In 2018, Taibbi began publishing a novel, The Business Secrets of Drug Dealing: Adventures of the Unidentified Black Male, as a serialized subscription via email and a website with an anonymous partner.[46] The novel is fictional with true-crime elements.[46]

In 2019, Taibbi wrote a chapter for his self-published book, Hate Inc., entitled "Why Russiagate Is This Generation's WMD", comparing alleged Trump-Russian collusion to allegations Iraq had WMD in 2002/2003.[47] Writing in an opinion piece for in the New York Times, Michelle Goldberg criticized Taibbi's assertion that "the biggest thing [the investigation] has uncovered so far is Donald Trump paying off a porn star” as "silly".[48]

In October 2019, Taibbi argued that the whistleblower in the Trump–Ukraine scandal was not a "real whistleblower" because the whistleblower would have had their life affected by prosecution or being sent to prison.[49] Taibbi also quoted former CIA analyst Robert Baer who argued that the whistleblower was part of a "palace coup against Trump."[49]

Financial journalism

Known for his reporting in the wake of the 2008 Subprime Mortgage Crisis and subsequent Great Recession, Taibbi described Goldman Sachs as "a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money".[50] In financial and political media the expression "Vampire Squids" has come to represent the perception of the financial and investment sector as entities that "sabotage production" and "sink the economy as they suck the life out of it in the form of rent."[51][52][53]

Tackling the assistance to banks given in foreclosure courts, Taibbi traveled to Jacksonville, Florida to observe the "rocket docket". He was brought in to observe a hearing with attorney April Charney.[54] He concluded that it processed foreclosures without regard to the legality of the financial instruments being ruled upon, and sped up the process to enable quick resale of the properties, while obscuring the fraudulent and predatory nature of the loans.[55]

In February 2014, Taibbi joined First Look Media to head a financial and political corruption-focused publication called Racket.[56] However, after management disputes with First Look's leadership delayed its launch and led to its cancellation, Taibbi returned to Rolling Stone the following October.[57][58]

Sports journalism

Taibbi also wrote a column called "The Sports Blotter" for the free weekly newspaper, The Boston Phoenix.[21] He covered legal troubles involving professional and amateur athletes.[59]

Useful Idiots

In August 2019, Taibbi launched a political podcast co-hosted with Katie Halper entitled Useful Idiots, released through Rolling Stone.[60][61][62] The podcast has since featured interviews with various guests including Liz Franczak,[63] Andre Damon,[64] David Dayen,[65] Cornel West,[66] Glenn Greenwald,[67][68] and Aaron Maté.[69]

In March 2021, Taibbi announced that Useful Idiots would no longer be released by Rolling Stone and would be moving to Substack.[70] With a few changes in program support staff, it is published by Substack as both audio and video that features both a free subscription and a paid subscription.

TK news

In April 2020, Taibbi announced he would no longer publish his online writing through Rolling Stone, and henceforth, would publish his online writing independently through the e-mail newsletter service Substack. He stated that he would continue to contribute print features for Rolling Stone and maintain the Useful Idiots podcast with Katie Halper. (In April 2021, Useful Idiots, under its same name, but with some support staff changes, also would move to publication by Substack.)

In 2020, Taibbi stated that his decision to move his writing to the newsletter service was made independently and that he was not asked to leave Rolling Stone.[71][72]

Taibbi has branded his Substack newsletter as, TK news, after a term used in manuscript preparation for publication and journalism, TK, that stands for "to come", indicating that more will follow.

After a period of publication with free subscriptions only, Taibbi introduced an additional, paid subscription featuring content that will not be provided as part of the free subscriptions.

Personal life

Taibbi is married to Jeanne, who is a family physician; the couple have three children.[73][74][2] As of 2014, Taibbi lived in Jersey City, New Jersey.[74]

In a 2008 interview with Hemant Mehta for Patheos, Taibbi described himself as an "atheist/agnostic".[75]


In 2008, Taibbi was awarded the National Magazine Award in the category "Columns and Commentary" for his Rolling Stone columns.[76] He won a Sidney Award in 2009 for his article "The Great American Bubble Machine".[77]



  1. Simon, Jeff (May 8, 2005). "CAMPAIGNS FOUND A GORILLA JOURNALIST IN THEIR MIDST". The Buffalo News. Retrieved September 15, 2019.
  2. Purcell, John (November 10, 2010). "Matt Taibbi, author of Griftopia, answers Ten Terrifying Questions". Booktopia.
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  10. Beiser, Vince (October 23, 2006). ""Worst Congress Ever"?". Mother Jones. Retrieved September 17, 2019.
  11. Taibbi, Mike (January 20, 2009). "Obama's story inspires search for roots". NBC News. Archived from the original on January 30, 2016. Retrieved April 2, 2016.
  12. "Mike Taibbi's Rules for Reporting on Television". Pacific Islanders in Communications. January 22, 2015. Retrieved March 14, 2021.
  13. Matt Taibbi [@mtaibbi] (January 6, 2015). "@RaHa762 Taibbi is actually a Sicilian name of Lebanese/Arabic origin. I'm not either (father was adopted)" (Tweet) via Twitter.
  14. Matt Taibbi [@mtaibbi] (January 23, 2015). "@qnqrc Its origins are Lebanese, but I'm Irish and Filipino. It's complicated" (Tweet). Retrieved March 14, 2021 via Twitter.
  15. Matt Taibbi [@mtaibbi] (August 23, 2015). "@ilikefights My father is Filipino and Hawaiian. My mother is Irish. These are heavily Jewish cultures, so I understand your confusion" (Tweet) via Twitter.
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  23. Mark Ames; Matt Taibbi (2000). The Exile: Sex, Drugs, and Libel in the New Russia. Grove Press. p. 30. ISBN 978-0-8021-3652-7.
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  65. Dayen, David (2021-02-01). "First 100: How the Congressional Budget Office May Determine Wages for 32 Million Workers". The American Prospect. Retrieved 2021-02-02. I was on Rolling Stone’s Useful Idiots podcast with Matt Taibbi and Katie Halper discussing a bunch of stuff.
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  68. "Guide To Journalists And Organizations Covering Assange Extradition Trial". Shadowproof. 2020-09-21. Retrieved 2021-02-02.
  69. Taibbi, Matt, and Halper, Katie, Aaron Maté on Biden's Foreign Policy, OPCW, and More, Useful Idiots, February 19, 2021
  70. @mtaibbi (March 5, 2021). "The Useful Idiots Podcast is leaving the loving embrace of Rolling Stone, and will be moving to Substack, beginning next week. With a few fun tweaks, much the same show, and it will continue to be available across multiple podcast platforms. @kthalps" (Tweet). Retrieved March 22, 2021 via Twitter.
  71. Taibbi, Matt (April 6, 2020). "Announcement to Readers: I'm Moving". Substack. Retrieved April 6, 2020.
  72. "Entrepreneurial expat journalist urges media to look beyond ads". Radio New Zealand. April 20, 2020. Retrieved January 12, 2021.
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