Donald Trump promised media outlets that his Friday morning speech at his newly opened Trump International Hotel Washington D.C. would be a “major address” on the issue of whether President Obama was born in the United States. But after 35 minutes of the real-estate mogul promoting his business, and a handful of ex-military members touting Trump’s leadership, it became apparent that this was an elaborate stunt to advertise the lavish new hotel.
CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC all cut away from the event after 25 minutes, vowing to return once Trump retook the podium to discuss whether he now believes Obama is a U.S. citizen, several years after he made political hay out of the debunked conspiracy that president was Kenyan. CNN anchor Jake Tapper decried how Trump had successfully gotten millions to tune into his “birther” address, only to find a drawn-out promotion of his campaign and hotel. “It’s hard to imagine this as anything other than a political Rick-roll,” Tapper remarked. “We got played again by the Trump campaign,” his colleague John King added.
Additionally, according to multiple reports, the networks’ collective TV pool for the Trump campaign voted to pull its camera from the hotel tour that followed the nominee’s speech, as a protest against the “bait-and-switch with no editorial access” the campaign had just pulled on reporters. The pool’s editorial chair was reportedly detained when trying to join the cameras for the tour, as is customary, leading to the networks voting to pull their cameras and erase the footage.
Earlier Monday morning, when asked by FBN host Maria Bartiromo whether Obama is a citizen, Trump demurred, “You watch my address. I have to keep the suspense going,” further suggesting this was an elaborate publicity prank executed against the media.