“The president was treated like a Rock Star inside the hospital, which was all caught on video,” Dan Scavino said of the president’s visit to Dayton’s Miami Valley Hospital, where he met survivors of one of two major mass shootings, and the medics who treated them. “They all loved seeing their great president.”
Scavino’s tweet was met with a curt response. “As a member of today’s White House travelling press pool, we actually have no idea if this is true – because we were not allowed to witness anything,” tweeted Ashley Parker, a White House reporter for the Washington Post. “We were told the president wanted to avoid a ‘photo opp’ – though the White House did put out photos of their own.”
The White House also kept reporters away from the action when he visited the University Medical Centre of El Paso, where – because of a piece of video posted online by somebody present – we know the president bragged about how many people attended a rally he held in the city in February and mocked Democrat Beto O’Rourke. “That was some crowd,” Trump bragged to the medical staff. “And then you had this crazy Beto. Beto had like 400 people in a parking lot.”
If the media shut-out was not bad enough, the White House then released its own very slick video of the president’s two visits. It showed people taking pictures of him with their phones, everybody smiling, and Melania and her husband looking concerned and empathetic. Adding to the Hollywood vibe, was the stirring string music accompanying it.
“Reporters were not permitted to witness any of this,” tweeted Glenn Kessler, another Post reporter. “So now Americans end up with a propaganda video. This is a very slippery slope.”
Most controversial of all has been an image released by the first lady that shows Trump thumbs aloft, as she holds a baby orphaned by last Saturday’s attack. The baby had to be brought back to the hospital for the White House-choreographed, North Korea-style propaganda video, because he had already been discharged.
Eight patients still in the hospital declined to meet the president, although the aunt and uncle of the little boy, Paul, said they were happy about Trump’s visit and said the youngster’s parents were supporters. (Along with other media, The Independent was obliged to remain several streets away from the hospital, a perimeter enforced by police carrying riot shields and sticks, while all this was happening).
We should not be surprised by Trump’s crassness or insensitivity during his visit to two cities in grief, one of which – El Paso – held a large, emotional protest where people told him to stay away. But we ought not get too distracted by it either, or his grinning for the cameras while his wife held the toddler; Trump is always looking for a photo-op. He is is always campaigning.
As America quickly moves on from the killings in El Paso and Dayton, it is important to keep two things in mind.
The president was not welcome in El Paso because many thousands there believe his racist language fuelled the violent bigotry that resulted in 22 people being shot dead by a young white man who allegedly wanted to kill Hispanics.
The other point is that Trump and his attitude towards immigrants and gun control is not going to change between now and the election.
Indeed, he is betting that his blunt stance on immigration – the smearing of migrants as “rapists” and “criminals”, his intentionally cruel policy splitting up of families, and his attempt to link gun regulation to immigration reform – will see him re-elected. Get ready for a lot more propaganda.
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