Last week, addressing the graduating class of the Coast Guard Academy, President Donald Trump declared "no politician in history—and I say this with great surety—has been treated worse or more unfairly." He echoed this on his Twitter later in the day, describing the ongoing FBI inquiry into his team as "the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!" (His punctuation.)
During Saturday Night Live's season finale over the weekend, "Weekend Update" host Michael Che came back with the shadiest response: "Honey, it's because you're not a real politician," Che said. "You're a politician like Ja Rule is a festival organizer."
Che's comment, of course, referred to the calamity that was the Fyre Festival, the destination music festival touted by supermodels like Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner that was quickly revealed to be a sham. When guests arrived in the Bahamas last month, they found FEMA tents in lieu of the luxury accommodations they had been promised, and slices of Wonder Bread and cheese in lieu of the barbecues and fancy catering that had been advertised. And as it was an event touted by and for "influencers," the whole scandal went down on social media, with attendees tweeting, Instagramming, and live-streaming direct from the island.
The guests were quickly evacuated, but the Fyre Festival's organizers Ja Rule and Billy McFarland are still taking the heat. A new report by the New York Times published Sunday revealed the festival is now under investigation for "possible mail, wire and securities fraud" by the United States attorney's office in the Souther District of New York and the Federal Bureau of Investigations. (Though Che's SNL remark was but a punchline, Fyre Festival and Trump's shared FBI scrutiny only underlines the parallel. They also share a penchant for blaming media sensationalism for any shortcomings. But unlike Trump, the Fyre Festival, at least, is a catastrophe we can all agree on; and unlike the Fyre Festival, Trump isn't funny.)
According to a tape of a recent meeting between McFarland, Ja Rule, and employees at Fyre Media's Tribeca headquarters obtained by the Times, the festival co-founders tried to assuage fears, assuring the room the festival would be back next year—at a location a little closer to home, according to ticket refunds that offered guests the option to defer their tickets to the U.S.-based 2018 festival.
“The whole world knows Fyre’s name now,” Ja Rule said, according to the Times. “This will pass, guys.”
But even before the festival had piqued the interest of the FBI, it had already been hit by series of lawsuits in the immediate aftermath of the aborted festival, including five class-action lawsuits as of early May alleging a series of charges including "fraudulent misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation, fraud in the inducement and violation of the Florida Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act" as well as breach of contract, according to a Rolling Stone report.
Ja Rule's lawyer told the Times that the musician "would never participate in anything fraudulent; it’s simply not in his DNA." If only genetics were an accepted legal defense against fraud.
Meet the chameleons of the art world—all the different kinds of humans you might encounter at Frieze New York: