How Molly Jong-Fast Tweeted Her Way to Liberal Media Stardom

Last month, Ms. Jong-Fast sat barefoot in her spacious but homey Upper East Side co-op, surrounded by the bric-a-brac of uptown literary life: Fornasetti candles, her grandfather’s Emmy, a pillow needlepointed with the cover of The New York Post. As one dog was groomed in the dining room, another nestled in her lap. In her makeshift home podcast studio, Ms. Jong-Fast had just wrapped a Zoom interview with Gisele Barreto Fetterman, wife of the Pennsylvania Senate candidate. (“You look a-mazing,” Ms. Jong-Fast cooed, as Ms. Fetterman asked after her pets.)

“I was a drug addict, I nearly died, I got sober; I’ve had this incredible run,” Ms. Jong-Fast said. “A lot of kids who grew up like I grew up are not high functioning. I feel very grateful.”

Her parents split up when she was 3. Her mother, busy being a cultural icon, often left Ms. Jong-Fast with her grandparents, including Howard Fast, the “Spartacus” novelist and Communist activist who served prison time in the McCarthy era and introduced Molly to left-wing politics.

Her mother, Ms. Jong-Fast notes, was an early adopter of oversharing. In 1985, Erica moved 6-year-old Molly from New York to the Beverly Hilton for a month because she was developing a sitcom based on her daughter’s experience with divorce. A pilot aired, but not before Ms. Jong-Fast’s father, Jonathan Fast, sued and demanded that his ex-wife change the character’s name from Molly to Megan. (A review in The New York Times praised the show’s “appealing breeziness.”)

Ms. Jong-Fast is dyslexic and did poorly in school; her ejection from Dalton, she said, was a “seismic” shock for her ur-intellectual family. She got into alcohol and drugs. After spending time at Hazelden, the A-list rehab center, Ms. Jong-Fast, at 21, published a roman à clef about her struggles. “That was what my mother did,” she said, referring to the act of novelizing one’s life. “So I just thought that was what you’re supposed to do.” The reviews were vicious.

She married her husband, an English professor turned venture capitalist, had three children, and wrote another book. But she felt at a loss. “I was like, ‘My life has no meaning,’” she recalled. “I was not put on this earth to write chick-lit novels.” Her writing on politics, at The Forward, drew little notice.

Then Mr. Trump came down the escalator. “At some point I realized this guy was gonna win and I was like, ‘Why isn’t everyone hysterical?’” she recalled. “That’s when I really started tweeting.”