Donald Trump, who has promised to help repair America’s brand (despite doing some serious damage to Macy’s brand) seemingly paid some actors to participate in his presidential campaign launch.
“I am officially running for president of the United States and we are going to make our country great again,” proclaimed Donald Trump in the lobby of Trump Tower. And with that, Trump ended his decades long flirtation with running for president by, according to him, officially entering the race to become the Republican party’s 2016 nominee.
Twitter widely mocked the meandering speech. Some conservatives heralded Trump’s announcement with great fanfare, others received the news with skepticism and derision. Pundits, prognosticators and journalists were mixed. In one analysis, Halperin noted Trump’s ability to draw crowds as an asset.
That observation seems intuitive. Trump is controversial and well-known and thus it just makes sense that you’d assume he’d draw a big crowd. But it immediately made me think of last year’s CPAC, when Trump spoke to a practically empty room:
It also got me thinking about the crowd at today’s event. Something just felt off about it to me. But, I couldn’t quite place it. Was it the staging? The crowd? My initial thought was, ‘I bet Trump is paying some of those people to be there.’ I talked myself out of that thought initially because…I mean…c’mon. This was supposed to be a presidential campaign event. No way he’d actually pay actors to participate. I thought my past history with Trump was just clouding my thinking a bit.
A few years ago, I launched a campaign to get Macy’s to end its partnership with Donald Trump and sever promotional relationship with Trump. The campaign took off with nearly 700,000 people signing a petition. It wasn’t long before Trump threatened to sue me for $25 million in an attempt to intimidate me into silence. Eventually he backed away from his own lawsuit threat. And, I persisteted in my efforts on and off. My experience with Trump though gave me front row seats for the kinds of chicanery that he was willing to deploy. It was through that lens that I analyzed today’s launch event.
Something was off. And, then I stumbled across a photo posted on instagram:
Update 6/17/15: After this story started to get traction, the Instagram account was deleted. Here is a screenshot of the original photo as posted on Instagram:
The gentleman who posted the pic is a paid actor who regularly posts photos from his gigs on social media. This seemed like all the others from his gigs that he posts. Sure. It seemed fishy. But, but I figured that perhaps it was just a coincidence?