The creation of an alternative factual universe is one of the defining traits of the Trump presidency
The White House has a habit of denials of things that seem relatively clear cut
On Tuesday, a Reddit user admitted he had created an anti-CNN GIF tweeted by President Donald Trump over the weekend.
He apologized for the video that was seen to condone violence against journalists as well as his anti-Semitic, racist and anti Muslim postings. His apology came after CNN’s KFile identified and attempted to contact him but before speaking to CNN.
One problem: The White House said Monday that Trump did not get the GIF from Reddit at all. (“The video was not pulled from Reddit,” a senior White House official told CNN’s Dan Merica.)
On the one hand, we have a detailed analysis of the origin of the GIF, which first appeared on Reddit last Wednesday, and its creator acknowledging he made it.
On the other we have the White House – with no name attached! – insisting Trump didn’t get the GIF from Reddit.
Which leaves an obvious question: Where did Trump get it then?
Did he make it? (Seems unlikely.) Did someone at the White House make it? The version that Trump tweeted was slightly altered from the version on Reddit. Did someone at the White House flag it from a site other than Reddit? Who? And what site was it?
To date, the White House hasn’t answered any questions about the origins of the video Trump tweeted or how he came to know it existed – beyond that he definitely didn’t get it from Reddit.
To be clear: How Trump came to find out about – and then tweet – a GIF in which he clotheslines a person with the CNN logo as its head is not exactly the most pressing issue in the country. The successful North Korean test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile, the coming G20 meeting in Germany, the uncertain fate of the Republican attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare: All of these issues matter far more.
But, this Reddit kerfuffle is something worth paying attention to because it’s part of a broader pattern from this White House: Strong denials of things that seem relatively clear cut, with no additional details provided.
No, Trump didn’t get the video from Reddit. No, we won’t answer any questions about where he did get it from.
The creation of an alternative factual universe is one of the defining traits of the Trump presidency to date. Yes, his inauguration crowd was bigger than President Barack Obama’s. Yes, 3 to 5 million people voted illegally in the 2016 election. Yes, Obama ordered the phones at Trump Tower to be wire-tapped during the 2016 campaign. No, he didn’t get that anti-CNN GIF from Reddit. And so on and so forth.
The facts, in each of these instances, belie the claims being made by the Trump White House. But, in each, the Trump administration seems to have little interest in explaining the contradiction or attempting to resolve it.
Sure, the facts all point to the CNN GIF originating from Reddit and Trump being made aware of it via that site. But, he wasn’t, according to the White House. So, who are you going to believe?
The cavalier attitude with which the Trump White House flouts agreed-upon facts and relies on “well, we said it” as its justification for almost anything is remarkable. That they would deny something as small – in the grand scheme of things – as the origins of a GIF in a tweet sent by the president suggests a commitment to “alternative facts” that is truly stunning.