Donald Trump’s presidency has seen many a bizarre moment with the press, but somehow, he manages to find new and bizarre ways to abuse them and the American people.
Such was the case Thursday afternoon when White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders took to the podium amid a chaotic news cycle that features serious questions about Trump’s mental fitness, and a metaphorical shooting war with one of his most influential supporters.
Rather than face the press corps that he has taken great pains to avoid, Trump appeared via a videotaped message to tout the economy that President Barack Obama left him. In an even more unsettling touch, Sanders interacted with the tape as though it were really Trump, introducing it as a “special guest,” and then thanking the blank video screens upon conclusion of the display. (Obviously, the prerecorded Trump did not take any questions from the press.)
Here’s the intro and outro of Trump’s two-minute message:
Forcing reporters to sit through a propaganda video is an unusual and likely unprecedented move that more resembles a political reeducation camp than a press briefing in a functional democracy. Sanders’ awkward interaction with the message only served to underscore that fact.
This administration set a high bar for absurdity when then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer made it his first official act to scream verifiable lies at a room full of reporters, which were later rebranded as “alternative facts.”
But Trump and his team have continued to top themselves, and in their zeal to hide from a poisonous news cycle, have done so again.