Donald Trump’s gargantuan, yet fragile, ego made another appearance this week at a shamelessly staged photo-op at the site of the toxic train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. And, true to form, Trump displayed the one constant character flaw that he has clung to for decades in public life: his frothing obsession with how he is characterized in the media.
Trump gauges the success of everything he does by how well it is covered by the press. It doesn’t even matter if it is positive or negative coverage, as long as he is at the center of it. The twice-impeached, former reality TV game show host regards media attention and television ratings as the final arbiter and definitive authority of one’s inherent human value. Too bad for him that those metrics have been sharply declining.
Consequently, it isn’t surprising that following his wholly contrived circus act in East Palestine, Trump boasted about how magnificently it was received by the media. Although it was nothing more than a patronizing parade of pomposity wherein he distributed Trump-branded water and MAGA hats as if it were just another one of his cult rallies, Trump was elated by the allegedly massive audience that he imagined witnessed the affair. Never mind that it was not covered by any significant news outlet. Every broadcast network, as well as CNN, MSNBC, and even Fox News, ignored his self-serving sideshow.
However, that didn’t stop Trump from reveling in imaginary glory with a post on his floundering Twitter ripoff, Truth Social that hailed his pretend popularity. The posting was headlined “VIEWERSHIP REPORT.” It stated, preposterously, that there were 178,052,414 people who watched his Trainwreck Tour on traditional and social media. The accompanying text read that…
“This report searched for the term ‘East Palestine’ + ‘Trump’ what you will see is while traditional outlets like Fox News are woefully derelict in their reporting with what you did, the word is still getting out there in a big way. Specifically, when the announcement was made last week there was a bump of coverage reaching about 2 million on social channels and 10 million on other channels.”
It’s interesting that Fox News is the only network that Trump calls out by name. Setting that aside, there are a couple of other obvious problems with this “reporting.” First of all, nowhere in this post is there any indication of the source of these numbers. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that they were pulled straight out of his assumptions and delusions of grandeur.
Secondly, by merely searching for the terms “East Palestine” and “Trump,” the results, from whatever source, would include instances where the context would be decidedly contrary to the celebratory impressions that trump is implying. For instance, they would include any reference to “Trump insulted the good people of East Palestine,” or “East Palestine was demonstrably harmed by Trump exploiting their hardship.”
Oblivious to that reality, the post went on to say that…
“The visit meant a lot for the people of East Palestine and the surrounding communities. The trip gave them hope and raised the awareness needed to combat the incompetence of the Biden Administration. As you will see a sharp spike in the positive sentiments as well.”
Once again, there is absolutely nothing that supports any of those assertions. What’s more, it leaves out the fact that many observers – locally and in the national press – criticized Trump’s presence in the area as selfish, disruptive, and insensitive. And despite petulantly lashing out at President Biden, Trump also leaves out the fact that he never visited any of the many train derailments – some with fatalities – during his term in office. He also completely ignores the fact that his own policies may have contributed to the disaster in East Palestine. That was even noted by Steve Doocy, co-host of Fox and Friends:
“Apparently regulations regarding train safety were changed during the Trump administration. This particular railroad and others lobbied president Trump to dismantle an Obama era rule that would have required railroads to update their braking system […] The Trump administration undid that and said the cost exceeded the benefit.”
ruh roh pic.twitter.com/r0lxIMxAcw
— Adam Parkhomenko (@AdamParkhomenko) February 23, 2023
By tying himself to television ratings – especially fake ones – Trump is putting himself at risk of being the cause of his own humiliation. That’s because his popularity has been in a steep decline since he was evicted from the White House by the American people. And it’s been evident in the lackluster attendance of his recent events, and even more to the point, in his TV ratings, such as when he announced his candidacy for the 2024 Republican nomination for president…
UPDATE: Trump called in to Glenn Beck’s very low rated Internet program to say that Pete Buttigieg “came [to East Palestine] the next day and played to very small crowds.” Note that Trump is still obsessed with crowd size and that he said “played,” further affirming that he sees his role in public service as theater.
Trump says he had a bigger crowd size in E. Palestine than Pete Buttigieg: “He came the next day and played to very small crowds.” pic.twitter.com/SJPUJosHxh
— Ron Filipkowski ?? (@RonFilipkowski) February 24, 2023
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