In most settings, the president seems to be pretty comfortable throwing out claims that might not hold up upon close examination, but at campaign rallies, he appears to be especially willing to bend facts to fit his demands. Onstage in Arizona on Wednesday night, Trump reiterated his false belief that Democrats are engaging in voter fraud, this time ahead of the Nevada caucuses: “I’m hearing bad things about their vote count,” Trump said, warning of the shape of electoral fraud to come. Warmed up for his second rally in two days, the president went deeper on Thursday night in Colorado Springs, with a bizarre statement loaded with conspiracist shorthand:
“And you know we’re working with a cloud, we’re working with these people they want to take you out. They want to change the results. They got caught spying — let’s say it like it is, right? They got caught spying on our election, fake news. Hey, fake news [points to media area], take your cameras for a change and show ’em the room. And show ’em behind you. Go ahead, show ’em the room.”
A forensic read of the conspiracies at hand isn’t all that helpful, but it appears that Trump combined claims of Democratic voter fraud, unfair media bias, intelligence-community misconduct, and the misreporting of his crowd sizes into one big mess of paranoia.
Though much of Thursday’s rally involved the president repeating his usual mix of insult-comedy routine and stump-speech rhetoric — Adam Schiff is “little”; wind turbines “knock [bald eagles] out like crazy” — Trump did include a few new hits for his Colorado Springs audience. (For example, while deriding the record of former 2020 candidate Beto O’Rourke, Trump suggested that Abraham Lincoln was popular in Texas, a state that joined the Confederacy two days before he was sworn in as president.) The most notable inclusion came in the form of movie criticism: Riffing on how much the Academy Awards suck, Trump insulted Brad Pitt as a “little wise guy” and suggested that Gone With the Wind — a movie that won the Oscar for Best Picture six years before he was born — is better than this year’s winner, Parasite.