The Road to Jan 6 Final

Rudy Giuliani's Melting Hair Dye 'Freak Show' Made Even Donald Trump Flinch

In this daily series, Newsweek explores the steps that led to the January 6 Capitol Riot.

As hair dye dripped down the side of Rudy Giuliani's face during a November 19 press conference at Republican National Committee headquarters, many current and former Trumpers realized that Donald Trump's presidency was over.

"Oh my God, this is just like a freak show," said a West Wing staffer, according to "I Alone Can Fix It" by Carol D. Leonnig and Philip Rucker.

"You see f---ing Rudy's hair dye dripping down his face?" said a video operator on the audio of the Trump campaign's official video feed.

Giuliani talked and on, more and more frantic as the show dragged on for an hour and forty minutes, attacking the "fake media" and the "censored" media, who were televising the event.

rudy giuliani
"Oh my God, this is just like a freak show": Even Donald Trump was unsettled by Rudy Giuliani's melting-hair-dye press conference. Drew Angerer/Getty

"I know crimes, I can smell them," Giuliani said. "You don't have to smell this one, I can prove it to you, 18 different ways. I can prove to you that he won, Pennsylvania, by 300,000 votes. I can prove to you that he won Michigan, probably 50,000 votes."

"You're lying! You're lying! You're lying!" Giuliani screamed at one reporter at one point.

It is a massive conspiracy personally directed by Joe Biden, but bankrolled by "communist money," to steal an election that "the president clearly won by a landslide," Giuliani sidekick Sidney Powell said. We are "uncovering more every day," Powell went on, "the massive influence of communist money through Venezuela, Cuba, and likely China in the interference in our elections."

Another Trump lawyer, Jenna Ellis, spoke up to assure the press that facts and figures were forthcoming.

"This is the 1775 of our generation and beyond!" Powell threatened. "Are these people threatening violent revolution if they don't get their way? Normally I'd say, 'Of course not!'" But the seed was planted.

The news media reveled in the scene. "An apparent hair dye mishap gave critics of Rudy Giuliani another chance to gleefully mock him," USA Today reported. "The most insane 90 minutes," said Vanity Fair, in a story headlined: "Rudy Giuliani's hair dye melting off his face was the least crazy part of his batshit-crazy press conference."

Giuliani and the entire election claim of fraud was "Starting to melt," said The New York Times.

Recently fired head of cybersecurity for DHS Cristopher Krebs tweeted: "That press conference was the most dangerous 1hr 45 minutes of television in American history. And possibly the craziest. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you're lucky."

Attorney General William Barr and the president's son-in-law Jared Kushner dismissed the legal team. Even White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows privately admitted that the Trump presidency was over. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said the message from Meadows was "basically just that we got about 45 days left of the president's term."

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told Bob Woodward and Robert Costa that the Rudy and Sidney show was a turning point. "They were just beyond bizarre," Graham said. "And I think it took a lot of the air out of the balloon that the challenges are so unfocused, haphazard and conspiratorial." The news conference "accelerated the beginning of the end," he said. Graham had been a fierce and vociferous supporter of the president, but after the hair dye incident, he even greeted Sen. Kamala Harris, still a sitting senator from California and now the vice president-elect, with a fist bump when she returned to the Capitol.

Graham also spoke to Trump on the phone, not the first time, "trying to ease Trump toward acceptance of defeat."

The most important person in the drama, though, remained Donald Trump. And there is evidence now that he too turned. At first the president tweeted: "Evidence of voter fraud continues to grow, including 20,000 dead people on the Pennsylvania voters roll and many thousands all over the Country ..."

Trump himself was "unsettled" by the hair dye spectacle and the media mockery, according to Leonnig and Rucker.

From then on, the president subtly shifted to trying to convince his supporters that he still had a number of different pathways to overcome the apparent election loss: that no matter what the "lamestream media" was saying, supporters were right to believe that democracy was in peril and that there were conspiracies all around. As the White House increasingly hollowed, with some leaders quarantining after COVID exposures and others looking for post-administration jobs, President Trump stayed in the Oval Office, working the phones and tweeting, more and more isolated in who he talked to, uninterested in the presidency or in governing.

The last defense, Trump increasingly argued, rested with "the people," those behind him who now had it on their shoulders to save the nation.