CNN anchor Jake Tapper on Friday used a popular internet meme to describe a stunt Donald Trump pulled on the press, saying the Republican nominee for president managed to “Rick-roll” journalists into giving free media coverage to the real-estate mogul’s new hotel in Washington, DC.
Trump hinted early in the morning that he would make a “major” announcement about his thoughts on President Barack Obama’s birthplace, sending the media into a frenzy and resulting in wall-to-wall cable news coverage before the event.
When the campaign event finally commenced, however, Trump instead trotted out a group of decorated military veterans who lauded the Republican presidential nominee for over 20 minutes. Trump then very quickly said he believed Obama was born in the US.
Tapper compared the move to “Rick-rolling,” a late-2000s viral prank in which people would pretend to share real links that would instead send those who clicked on them to the music video for Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.”
“While these American heroes are people who we should all show reverence and respect – they’re much greater men than Rick Astley – it’s hard to imagine this as anything other than a political Rick-roll,” Tapper said.
Tapper argued that while it was a smart ploy to garner free attention on cable TV, it undermined trustworthiness in the campaign.
“It was very clever on one level. On another level, it speaks to the integrity of the Trump campaign,” Tapper said. “They told us something was going to happen, and it’s not happening.”
Other CNN political analysts agreed.
CNN analyst John King said after Trump finished his speech that the Trump campaign fooled reporters who were curious whether Trump would apologize for his yearslong questioning of Obama’s birthplace.
“We just got played. And voters can decide what to make of that,” King said.
He added: “After four or five years of leading a fraudulent, reckless campaign against the legitimacy of the president of the United States, you get four or five words saying he’s decided it’s over. I guess he gets to decide that.”
Both King and Tapper acknowledged that some prominent Hillary Clinton supporters also fed fuel to the birther fire in 2008, but noted that no one from Clinton’s campaign ever embraced the theory, which Trump espoused despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
After leading the birther crusade in 2011, Trump has largely attempted to avoid the subject, admitting as late as January that he still was unsure about Obama’s birthplace.