It was billed as the Triggered Father’s Day Special and at 8 p.m. on Thursday, the president's namesake adult fail son sat several feet away from his father, far enough to perhaps prevent the transmission of coronavirus though that was likely not intentional.
As someone who has interviewed a parent before, I know that there are certain problems of familiarity that arise. None of these problems plagued this father and son because, clearly, familiarity is not a problem for the Trumps. Junior seemed alarmingly excited to “get” his dad. Senior seemed as if he was humoring his spawn, being a vaguely good sport. The interview was streamed on YouTube but I went to it through the Trump campaign app, which I downloaded because I’m kind of a masochist.
The first question was, “Which is your favorite Trump child and why is it Ivanka?” It was meant to be a joke but it landed like a fact because it is a fact.
Senior said something about how he loved all his kids the same but it was clear that Trump likes Ivanka more because Ivanka wouldn’t be debasing herself by doing something this pathetic.
Then Junior asked about Twitter. He said his dad sometimes calls him to tell him he’s too hot on social media by saying, “Maybe you’re getting a little hot on social media.” They almost had a moment of actual normal interaction about Junior acting out on Twitter, but then Junior immediately pivoted to the case against ever apologizing and Drew Brees “sort of cowering to the mob.” OK.
After that, things got weirder, and nastier. Junior told his father that Osama Bin Laden had wanted to assassinate Barack Obama because “it would put Joe Biden in charge.” Even Senior sounded dubious about this idea and you got the idea that the father considers the son to be kind of a lightweight.
For the record, it’s not clear that that story is true but Fox News ran a story about it in April and James Woods tweeted it out, so there’s that. The Washington Post explained that “the garbled syntax of bin Laden’s communications may result from those having being dictated to several of his wives, according to the U.S. analyst,” so it’s really anyone’s guess what bin Laden really wanted.
But shortly after Trump said “I didn’t know this,” everything stopped and the Trump campaign ad dressed up as a TV show cut to a fake ad, about how Bin Laden “endorsed” Biden.
It felt like one of those fake ads on Saturday Night Live and it must have felt that way to them too, because right after that Junior asked his dad about SNL and which Trump impression on the show was the most accurate, and Senior didn’t answer though they did both agree it’s all been downhill since he hosted. Senior added that Alec Baldwin is “terribly untalented.”
At about the same time that the interview was airing, Trump was getting a little hot on social media himself, tweeting a fake CNN clip to accuse CNN of being fake news, and then told people, bizarrely, “if you see something, say something.” Twitter quickly slapped a warning label on the clip: “manipulated media.”
Speaking of manipulated media, the idea of the father-son interview seemed to be taking a page from the Cuomo brothers’ coronavirus talks on Chris’ primetime CNN show. And while the Cuomos are problematic for a host of reasons, they actually present as human people who have interacted with each other over their lives. They have family stories, they tease each other, they seem like they’re, you know, related.
Junior seems like he vacillates between being scared of his dad and just hoping his dad will just touch his arm. Senior seemed bored, and disinterested in letting his son cut into his speaking time. That’s a form of family relations to be sure, but not a very pleasant one. I’m no fan of Junior but there is something heartbreaking about his interactions with his father.
Through all of this, the viewer chat below the video was a stream of QAnon references, which helps explain why Junior’s final question was if aliens were real, and if Trump would declassify Area 51. Senior made a face and went into his usual routine about how he knew all sorts of interesting things, if you catch his drift.
Finally, 22 painfully long minutes later, it was over, and Senior got up and Junior said “good to see you” and the two turned to walk away without so much as touching as the camera zoomed in on the lit fireplace for some reason.
For all the craziness and propaganda, there was a pathos to the whole thing. Like Junior just wanted his dad to hug him, or to tell him everything was going to be OK. But as coronavirus rages, and the country continues to be torn apart by social unrest and injustice, we all know, even Senior knows, that none of this is going to be OK.