By now, most people are aware that President Donald Trump officially contracted COVID-19, and was briefly admitted to Walter Reed. Then…well…the Media did what the media tends to do…try to find ANYTHING to use to rile up the public, and to get those sweet, sweet clicks and ratings. As a result, we have this positively entertaining article from the Independent on October 5th, titled “Trump mocked for signing apparently blank paper in ‘staged’ photos at Walter Reed.”
Shortly after testing positive with COVID-19, President Trump was admitted to Walter Reed on Friday, October 2nd, 2020, as a precaution upon the advice of his physician. At first, the reaction was a mixture of nervous supporters wishing the President well, and vitriolic detractors, some of whom celebrated (sickly) the news. There was a lot of speculation and conspiracy theory being tossed about, as many political tribalists and pundits postured such ideas that he was on his deathbed, or that he was faking it as a political stunt, to name a couple of theories.
On Saturday, October 3rd, 2020, President Trump’s administration released photos of the President, claiming that the President was hard at work and doing well, despite his recent positive COVID test. To the cheers of his supporters, it appeared that President Trump would not be stopped by even COVID-19. However, the media, as our guardian angels, took it upon themselves to investigate further. As a result, we have this hilariously delicious morsel of journalism. I swear that we have not seen this many conspiracy theories since the moon landing, or the Denver International Airport’s construction.
The primary item addressed in this article is that upon digital photo enhancement, it appears that the President is signing a blank piece of paper. If this was all that was covered, then this would have been a hilarious PR gaffe that pretty much everyone would have laughed at. No big deal, everyone laughs, the President and his PR team have a little egg on their face, everyone goes their separate ways, and everyone breathes a sigh of relief that the leader of our country seems to be doing well…BUT, you know that the media just couldn’t stop there.
The insinuation made by this article is that the President is not really working, but is merely staging a political ploy to try to rally his supporters by misleading them concerning the true state of his health. Even if the article stopped there, the smear would be tolerable, as it is at least tangential to what the Article’s title would imply is covered in the article itself. But no. The article then goes on to list every single possible thing that the President may be plotting or doing, without any real point other than what I can assume is that the President is an evil mastermind at the head of a misinformation conspiracy. From pointing out that two photos are time stamped 10 minutes apart from each other in different rooms, to the President not wearing a mask, to an alleged edited video statement. I mean really. This is the best they could do. Let’s break this down.
First of all, let’s start with what the Journalist did right. I will absolutely give credit where credit is due. The first five or six paragraphs of the article seem to discuss the potential staging of the photos and some folks’ reaction to them. Everyone give a round of applause.
Now, to the meat and potatoes: Apparently, the news cycle quickly shifted from “he’s dying,” to “he’s staging photos!” I don’t know about you all, but if COVID is really as bad as the experts say, and the President is at risk (in his 70’s and overweight), then isn’t the fact that the President is physically capable of staging photo op’s a miracle? Something to breathe a sigh of relief at? It begs the questions: Did the media just want President Trump to be deathly ill so badly, that when evidence is provided to the contrary they will resort to conspiracy theories and personal slander to cope? Is the idea that President Trump was beating COVID so unpalatable to them that they would rather fabricate alternate realities? I am sorry (not really), but I will chalk up evidence of a healthy President as a win.
And then there is the outrage that the President may have staged photo ops. Remember when President Trump was the only high profile figurehead to stage photo opportunities? Remember when staged photos were morally wrong to participate in? Yeah. Me too. Photo op’s are a common practice, especially for figureheads whose wellbeing is called into question.
Additionally, the media failed to ask themselves the vital question of “do people even care about this?” Even if we surmise that people care about the President participating in a photo op, then does it even matter if the paper is blank? It’s a photo op for cripes’ sake! No! It is absolutely a gaffe, IF true, and a hilarious one at that, but it is not evidence that the President is faking good health (dynamo Trump went on to drive around in his motorcade to thank supporters, among other public displays of his vitality) or faking doing work (presidents do more than sign papers), or of anything more than a photo op. On another note, had any journalist asked themselves or anyone else if the paper was simply whitewashed as a result of light enhancement, causing it to be washed out? That is an entirely plausible possibility that seems to be left conveniently left out; presumably due to biases.
The point of the photo op is to show that the President is active and doing relatively well, not bed ridden and attached to a ventilator. So if the concern here is that the President were secretly and seriously ill, and that he was putting up a façade to downplay his illness, then fine. That’s concerning. But again, if the focus was simply on the alleged faux pas, then it would have been funny and embarrassing for the President, and that is all. However, without any other evidence to the contrary, to claim that this is a cover up of the President’s actual health and wellbeing is a fringe theory.
After the brief speculation on the authenticity of the President’s work, the article quickly devolves into mask shaming and fringe conspiracy theories about oddities in photo timestamps and alleged breaks in his video statement (all can be either discredited or debunked fairly easily with light reasoning and research). So why is this even here? This was not what was promised by the title of the article. I feel like I was told we were going to watch the game over some beers at the bar, but I wound up being bamboozled, getting a colonoscopy at the doctor’s office instead. I apologize if I got the impression that the story was about the President staging work for a photo op. Since these topics are so out there in relation to the article, I would not have even included them. Once these come into play, the article loses almost all credibility, and I take it as yet another in a long line of bad faith character assassination attempts on President Trump. A total nothing sandwich. Boring.
This article should have quit when it was ahead. I thought the idea of President Trump getting caught staging something was hilarious. Typical Donny T. What else? I laugh. You laugh. We all laugh. But no. This conversation went from a pleasant Thanksgiving discussion with some funny stories to grandpa forcing Ancient Astronaut Theory down the whole family’s throat for two hours.
Written by: The Fireman