There’s a Time magazine cover photo featuring Donald Trump hanging in at least five of his golf clubs. The only problem, according to the Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold, is that no such cover exists. As in, Trump (or someone close to him) created the cover out of whole cloth.
“The Time cover is a fake.
There was no March 1, 2009, issue of Time magazine. And there was no issue at all in 2009 that had Trump on the cover.
In fact, the cover on display at Trump’s clubs, observed recently by a reporter visiting one of the properties, contains several small but telling mistakes. Its red border is skinnier than that of a genuine Time cover, and, unlike the real thing, there is no thin white border next to the red. The Trump cover’s secondary headlines are stacked on the right side — on a real Time cover, they would go across the top.
And it has two exclamation points. Time headlines don’t yell.”
Time confirms the fake. The White House doesn’t dispute it. Trump himself posted a “look over here instead!” tweet Wednesday morning that read: “The #AmazonWashingtonPost, sometimes referred to as the guardian of Amazon not paying internet taxes (which they should) is FAKE NEWS!”
This (relatively) small episode is illustrative of two important things about Donald Trump:
1. He has a flexible definition of “true”
2. He’s willing to use the credibility of the media to boost himself when it serves his purposes
What we know about Trump is that for his entire adult life he has created the reality he wants around him – and then insisted, over and over again, it is the only reality. From his decision to adopt a nom de plume (“John Barron”) to talk about his exploits in New York City’s social scene to his insistence that Barack Obama might not have been born in America to his testimonial that he remembered seeing Muslims celebrating on the rooftops on Sept. 11, 2001 to his contention that he had the largest inauguration crowds or that 3 to 5 million illegal votes were cast in the 2016 election, Trump’s definition of “truth” is decidedly erratic.
To me, the best way to think about Trump is as a train conductor who is laying track even as he is driving. He isn’t totally sure where he’s headed at any given moment but he keeps laying the track and when he looks behind him he sees miles and miles of laid track. So, he figures, he must be doing something right!
Truth, in Trump’s world, is what he believes. So, even if he wasn’t on the cover of that specific Time magazine, he should have been. What difference does it make then if he puts himself on there and passes it off as real?
Remember that this is the man who retweeted an image from a supporter of himself photo-shopped onto the cover of Time’s “Person of the Year” cover in April 2016. (Trump was named Time’s Person of the Year in December 2016.)
Then there is the selective outrage Trump has for the media.
Unless you have been on another planet for the last 18 months, you know that one of Trump’s favorite attacks is on the mainstream media as “fake.” And yet, as the fake Time cover shows, Trump’s bluster against the media belies a nuanced understanding of how the media can be used to validate and promote him.
Trump didn’t put himself on a fake homepage for Breitbart News or The Gateway Pundit. He chose Time because he understands that appearing on the cover of that magazine means something to people. That it’s a sign of success, tangible evidence of the winning he so often talks about.
Trump understands the media matters. A lot. And he is the most avid consumer of media – cable TV, newspapers and website – of any president we’ve ever had in the White House.
That’s what you should take away from the fake Time magazine cover. Because that’s what it’s really telling us.
Update: The Time cover has been taken down in two of Trump’s golf clubs, according to Fahrenthold