President Donald Trump appeared on home turf Tuesday morning, phoning in to “Fox & Friends” to, you know, just chat.
The topic quickly turned to “Rage,” the new book by Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward documenting Trump’s handling (really, mishandling) of the coronavirus pandemic.
And then this exchange with “Fox & Friends” anchor Steve Doocy happened (bolding is mine):
Doocy: I think a lot of your supporters are going, why on earth would the President of the United States sit down and talk to Bob Woodward, something like 18 times, on tape?
Trump: “Well, because I assumed he was a little bit fair. I didn’t do it previously, he only writes bad books. And I actually got to read it last night, I read it very quickly and it was very boring. But there was not much in that book. … That’s a boring book.”
OK, so Trump read the entire book on his flight from Arizona to DC? (He spent all night after his Arizona event on the plane, arriving back at the White House shortly before midnight.) That claim virtually screams for a closer look.
Let’s start with what we know about Trump’s trip on Monday night.
According to White House pool reports, Air Force One left Arizona at 5 p.m. local time, which means it was 8 p.m. back on the East Coast. Trump landed at Andrews Air Force base at 11:30 p.m. Eastern Time.
So, that’s about three and a half hours of travel time. The Woodward book, according to Amazon, is 480 pages long.
A bit of back-of-the-envelope math produces this: Trump would have had to read, roughly, 2.2 pages a minute in order to finish the whole book on the flight. That’s less than 30 seconds per page.
Which is very fast! The average reader (someone who reads 300 word per minute) takes about 1.7 minutes to read a book page, while a fast reader (450 words per minute) just over 1 minute.
In order then for Trump to have actually read the whole book, he would need to have read more than twice as fast as a fast reader, consuming 900 words or more every minute.
And when I say every minute, I mean every minute. As in, all 210 minutes it took him to fly from Arizona to DC. No staring out the window for five minutes. No naps. No checking his phone. No tweeting. (According to his timeline, Trump or his staff sent 12 tweets or retweets while on the flight back to DC.) No nothing – except reading 900 words a minute.
Now, it’s possible that Trump stayed up late after the flight, reading the book “very quickly.” But that is, well, how to put this, not at all likely. Especially when you consider what we know about Trump’s reading habits.
In July 2016, in an interview with The Washington Post, Trump was asked by a reporter whether he had read any presidential biographies as he prepared to formally become the GOP’s nominee.
Trump told the reporter he never had time to read, adding: “I never have. I’m always busy doing a lot. Now I’m more busy, I guess, than ever before.”
“I like bullets or I like as little as possible,” Trump told Axios in the days before his inauguration in 2017. “I don’t need, you know, 200-page reports on something that can be handled on a page. That I can tell you.”
Former Trump White House economic adviser Gary Cohn made that point even more bluntly in an email obtained by author Michael Wolff for his book “Fire & Fury.”
“It’s worse than you can imagine,” wrote Cohn. “Trump won’t read anything—not one-page memos, not the brief policy papers, nothing.”
You get the idea. There’s zero evidence that Trump is either a voracious reader or, really, much of a reader at all. His preferred methods of obtaining information are through short, bullet-pointed lists, verbal briefings or by watching TV.
So, did Trump actually read the entirety of Woodward’s book on the plane Monday night and find it “very boring?”