Are Trump's tweets carefully planned cover-ups? An investigation
On Friday, November 18, the story broke that Donald Trump had settled a lawsuit, agreeing to pay $25 million to former students of his now-defunct Trump University. It was bad news for the president-elect, who had endlessly promised he was in the right and guilty of nothing.
But for the casual news consumer, the giant settlement was far from the story of the day: that honor would go to Vice President-elect Mike Pence getting booed after a performance of the Broadway smash "Hamilton." Or less the booing itself, or Pence's muted response — he maintained that he "wasn't offended by what was said" — but more PEOTUS and his raging remarks about the "overrated" production on Twitter.
So insanely did the future president's feud with the "Hamilton" cast dominate the news that a fresh conspiracy blossomed: Trump wasn't just casually tweeting whatever came to his mind, he was actually engaged in pre-planned cover-ups to shift the national conversation away from potentially embarrassing stories. So is Trump cleverly duping us all? Or, in a Trump-like version of Occam's Razor, is a simpler, more id-driven explanation at play?
The cover-up conspiracy does fit a pattern. Take this Tuesday morning for example, when Trump took to Twitter to broadcast his feelings about flag burners in the aftermath of a scandal at Hampshire College involving the removal of Old Glory.
Those standing by the theory would argue that Trump was undoubtedly hoping to generate flag-burning headlines, since for many, Tuesday's real story was his controversial appointment of Rep. Tom Price, a longtime critic of the Affordable Care Act, to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. Members of the media caught on to these "competing" news stories, with some suggesting that Trump was even trying to deflect attention away from an editorial in the Wall Street Journal about the potential conflicts of Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
It happened again on November 20, when Trump continued to berate "Hamilton" and kept the scandal on everyone's minds. Meanwhile, Trump made no mention of his previous day meeting with onetime political rival Mitt Romney, the man who called him "a phony" and "a fraud." Instead, in addition to his "Hamilton" tweets, Trump tweeted about General James Mattis and New York Senator Chuck Schumer and took aim at other entertainment, denouncing Saturday Night Live's impression of him.
On November 22, Trump once again tweeted his frustrations with the New York Times, and proceeded to cancel — and then un-cancel — a highly-publicized, planned meeting with the paper's staff members.
Trump only tweeted once after the 12:30 p.m. meeting with the Times on the 22nd, and it was about a tragic bus accident in Tennessee. But once again, Trump seemed to purposefully avoid a major piece of news concerning himself: Earlier that morning, Trump's former campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, told "Morning Joe" that contrary to his long-standing campaign pledge to "lock her up," Trump would not pursue a criminal investigation of rival Hillary Clinton in regards to her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.
Yet, a simpler theory also works: We're in the middle of a transition, Donald Trump is about to assume one of the biggest jobs in the world, and so there are naturally big stories about him every day. And as eighteen months of campaigning showed, Trump's a shoot-from-the-hip kind of guy, inclined to say whatever he's thinking, when he's thinking it.
Philip Wallach, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institute, leans toward the latter explanation. "The President-Elect likes watching television news and likes to tweet his unfiltered reactions, and so he continues to do so," he told Vocativ in an email Tuesday. "This may well serve to distract people from important issues, but I doubt it is a calculated or strategic plan to do so."
Tom Kludt, writing for CNNMoney, observed a similar overlap: while Trump's explosive tweets do overlap with big, unflattering news, they also synch up pretty neatly with cable TV, often Fox & Friends. He writes the president-elect "may be behaving like so many other Twitter users and simply responding emotionally to what he's watching on television. In at least six instances since Election Day, the subject of Trump's tweets has pertained to a segment that had just aired on TV."
In either instance, Trump shows no signs of stopping his factually dubious, sometimes contradictory tweets, promising us four more years of figuring out how to respond to them.
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