Since his early days as an upstart real estate developer in Manhattan, Donald Trump has had a knack for attracting and keeping the attention of the media. Many tout this seemingly innate ability as one of the key factors of his success. Where others would see shame and scandal, Trump sees opportunity.
From the very beginning of his presidential campaign, it was obvious that the media didn’t want to cover Trump and his antics. But they just couldn’t help themselves. His knack for apropos nicknames like “Lying Ted,” “Low-Energy Jeb,” and “Crooked Hillary” may have earned him the seething hatred of his enemies, but media outlets lapped up these jabs with eagerness. In fact, they all but invited Trump to push the envelope even further.
Throughout the 2016 election, the mainstream media tried to laugh off Trump like he was a bad dream. He’ll never be president, they said. He’s running as a joke, they scoffed. America knows better, they assured. But their aloofness quickly soured to cold malice as soon as they realized that this master of insult had become the Mocker in Chief.
Ever since, the mainstream media and their backers have lobbed scandal after scandal at President Trump, hoping to score devastating hits. But this “stable genius” has taken it all in stride and has hit back unabatedly, seeming to relish all the attention. Here are some of the best examples of the world’s biggest troll hard at work during and after the historic campaign.
10 Stealing Fake News
Hardly anyone remembers it now, but “fake news” was originally a term thought up by the Democrats in the waning days of the 2016 election as an attempt to discredit alternative media outlets like Breitbart and Infowars. A website called PropOrNot.com, managed by an anonymous operator, suddenly became immensely popular throughout the mainstream media. Many owners and readers of alternative news sites were dismayed by this turn of events until Trump came to the rescue by claiming the term for himself.
These days, it’s plain to see that the media bitterly regrets ever using the term “fake news.” Like a merciless schoolyard bully, Trump has appropriated the term in full force and deployed it at every possible opportunity to harass and discredit mainstream news outlets. “Fake news” has become synonymous with Trump’s particular brand of verbal pugilism and PropOrNot.com’s feeble attempt to put a cork in the voice of dissent is all but forgotten.
9 Inviting Bill Clinton’s Accusers
No one will ever forget Bill Clinton’s face on the night of the second presidential debate of the 2016 election cycle. Occasionally stealing shifty glances across the room, this former president of the United States and husband of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton seemed somewhat disturbed by the presence of four women in the audience. These women had been personally invited to the debate by candidate Trump, and they all shared one thing in common: Each claimed to have been sexually assaulted by Bill Clinton.
Trump held a press conference before the debate in which he gave each of the women a chance to speak. There was a palpable sense of confliction in the air as the mainstream media tried to decide whether to cover the event. In the end, it didn’t matter. Trump had already delivered his masterstroke by promising to get these women in the same room as the Clintons.
The night of the second presidential debate is also remembered for the moment when Trump delivered what was perhaps the most brutal one-liner of his entire career. When Hillary Clinton remarked that it was a good thing that Trump wasn’t in charge of the laws of the United States due to his temperament, Trump interjected with a classic mic drop: “Because you’d be in jail.”
8 DC Hotel Opening
Weeks before Election Day 2016, Trump announced that he would be overseeing the grand opening of his new hotel in Washington, DC. He also mentioned that he would be putting everyone’s concerns over his questioning of former President Obama’s citizenship to rest. The media showed up breathlessly, eagerly anticipating one of the rarest events known to man: a Trump apology.
But the media’s excitement quickly turned to dismay as they were forced to cover multiple decorated war veterans endorsing Trump before the presidential candidate even took the stage. For 90 minutes, American heroes extolled the virtues of Donald Trump’s policies and the mainstream media broadcast it all live.
By the time Trump finally arrived to give his remarks, the media had long since realized that they had been brutally rickrolled and perhaps weren’t surprised when Trump dedicated 270 words to the opening of his hotel and only 67 words to the issue of Obama’s birth certificate. But prepared or not, a trolling like that has got to sting.
7 CNN Beatdown Meme
As a strong defender of his right to use social media exactly how he pleases no matter the gravity of the office he may hold, Trump has frequently taken to Twitter since becoming commander in chief to share his unfiltered opinions with his millions of followers. Some of President Trump’s tweets have been shockingly vulgar while others have been refreshingly apropos.
But one tweet from August 2017 so brutally singles out one of Trump’s enemies that even his most faithful fans quickly checked to make sure that it hadn’t been posted by a parody account. In this tweet, Trump shared a video meme created by a Reddit user named “HanA—holeSolo” that depicts The Donald himself performing a mock takedown at a WWE match.
There’s just one twist, however. The head of Trump’s opponent has been replaced with the CNN logo. The mainstream media immediately erupted into an uproar, accusing Trump of inciting violence against the press. But when CNN retaliated by tracking down the creator of the meme and threatening to release his true identity to the public, many felt that the network had crossed an even bigger line than Trump had with his tweet.
In a formal statement, CNN informed their viewers that they had decided to refrain from publishing HanA—holeSolo’s real name after receiving an apology from him. Nonetheless, they reserved the right to “dox” the offending Reddit user at their discretion.
Perhaps no one had informed CNN that anonymous Internet trolls aren’t responsible for the decisions of the president of the United States, or perhaps the embattled media giant had simply decided to choose their battles and pick on some low-hanging fruit, having already maxed out their efforts to undermine Trump’s presidency with all-but-negligible results.
6 Public Immigration Meeting
As another example of Trump baiting the media with an offer they couldn’t refuse, he invited the press to cover an immigration reform meeting that he was holding at the White House in January 2018. Invitees included members of Congress from both houses and both sides of the aisle who were being summoned to come up with a bipartisan solution to the nation’s broken immigration system.
The mainstream media arrived with their full contingent, ready to absorb a few prepackaged sound bites to recycle throughout the coming days as a government shutdown loomed. Instead, members of the press were treated to nearly a full hour of candid discussion between President Trump and the liberal and conservative elected representatives whom he had invited to the proceedings.
Having been there for almost the entire meeting, the media had a much harder time spinning narratives that fit the bias of their bases. As a double whammy, all the cameras ensured that the attending Senators and Congressmen were on their best behavior. The icing on the cake: Trump was able to appear as a champion of transparency and interparty cooperation.
5 The ‘S—thole’ Comment
Almost as soon as the immigration meeting was over, a new scandal erupted throughout the mainstream press. According to Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, once the cameras had been shut off and the media had been escorted from the room, Trump had complained out loud about the degree to which the United States was taking in migrants from “s—thole countries.”
Morally offended, Durbin made sure to tell CNN’s Jake Tapper all about the naughty language. The White House has vehemently denied that the comment ever took place. Nevertheless, Trump was endlessly lambasted for his insensitivity by lawmakers and pundits alike.
But what if that’s exactly how Trump wanted it?
For whatever reason, the media linked the president’s alleged comment to Haiti, even though Durbin’s original testimony to CNN never explicitly named this Caribbean island nation. While insults certainly aren’t warranted, Haiti is undeniably one of the poorest countries in the world. It has rickety slum cities and endless piles of garbage and human waste as an inescapable reality for the overwhelming majority of the country’s people.
After the 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti, billions of dollars in relief funding poured in to alleviate the suffering of those affected. Yet, nearly 10 years later, conditions haven’t improved in Haiti and may have worsened. If Trump did truly let slip this ill-advised epithet behind closed doors, perhaps he was slyly attempting to raise questions about how Haiti became a “s—thole” in the first place.
4 Fake News Award
Just days after the “s—thole” comment hit the fan, President Trump unveiled the winners of his eagerly anticipated Fake News Award. Unsurprisingly, CNN and The New York Times were some of the biggest winners. But many readers were somewhat taken aback by the instance of fake news which had garnered the No. 1 spot on the list.
On the day that Trump won the presidency in 2016, legendary American economist Paul Krugman famously predicted that this unexpected victory would cause damage to the stock market from which it would never recover. Given all the personal attacks and defamatory claims which Trump has endured since taking office, Krugman’s prognostication seems to fall pretty low on the fake news totem pole. Then again, Krugman has certainly been proven almost breathtakingly wrong.
3 MS-13 Victims At The State Of The Union
President Trump chose some very interesting guests for his 2018 State of the Union speech. The First Lady’s box was graced with the likes of North Korean defectors, war heroes and their supporters, and border patrol officers. The tie for most tear-jerking attendees was between the police family who adopted the unborn daughter of an opiate addict and the pair of parents whose daughters were murdered by members of the vicious gang known as MS-13.
Even though they’re breaking the law by entering the country, most illegal immigrants who come to the United States don’t represent a threat to national security. MS-13 members, however, legitimately worship death and indiscriminately kill and rape for no reason. Strangely, very little attention has been given to this murderous gang in the mainstream media, an oversight which Trump seemed committed to unraveling.
As the cameras rolled, President Trump called out each of the parents by name. Republican members of Congress stood and clapped, but almost every Democratic member sat in stony silence or played on their smartphones. Trump had exposed on live television how little Democrats seemed to care about the victims of gang violence when the implications didn’t fit in with their agendas.
2 State Of The Union Accomplishments List
Throughout his 2018 State of the Union address, President Trump was careful to point out all the accomplishments that his administration had achieved in 2017. The stock market was at all-time highs, he mentioned. Manufacturing jobs were moving back to the USA, he quipped. Black unemployment was at an all-time low, he gloated.
Upon this remark, cameras panned to where members of the Congressional Black Caucus were seated on the Democratic side of the aisle. Not a single member stood, and only one representative was seen to clap. While the Black Caucus supposedly stayed seated to declare their opposition to the president’s policies, this is one optics battle in which Trump’s media savvy seems to have prevailed.
1 ‘Americans Are Dreamers, Too’
For years, the debate has raged over how to solve the problem of the so-called “Dreamers.” Often lumped in with DACA, the proposed DREAM Act, which Democrats have been trying to pass into law for years, would actually grant citizenship to far more immigrants than currently receive temporary lawful status under DACA. Nonetheless, Democrats often say that there is no solution to DACA without the DREAM Act, effectively preventing the debate from moving forward.
The term “Dreamers” has been used by liberal pundits and politicians to curry the sympathy of American voters by evoking the patriotic ideals of the American Dream. But during his 2018 State of the Union speech, Trump appropriated yet another of his enemies’ terms by reminding his audience around the world that “Americans are dreamers, too.”
Samuel is a freelance writer and inquirer into the unknown. By rejecting the authority of conventional belief systems while grounding his perspectives in the core of human experience, he manifests content that dissolves barriers between perception and comprehension. Follow Samuel on Twitter.