Of all the loose cannons to roll across political Twitter’s decks, Donald Trump may have been the most volatile. The GOP nominee blasted his messages into the feeds of 13 million followers and accrued retweets by the thousands. For every hit scored against Jeb Bush (“low energy“), Ted Cruz (“Lyin’“) or Hillary Clinton (“Crooked“), though, there remained a risk Trump’s potshots would be self-destructive rather than tactical.
In the past, Trump’s worst tweets included the ludicrous, like his claim that climate change was a Chinese hoax, as well as the insulting and unsubtle. “While @BetteMidler is an extremely unattractive woman,” Trump tweeted in 2012, “I refuse to say that because I always insist on being politically correct.” He remained an impulsive tweeter well into his presidential campaign. On Sept. 30, he unleashed a series of tweets in the dead of morning, exhorting supporters to “check out sex tape” of former Miss Universe Alicia Machado.
“Wow,” Trump wrote, “Crooked Hillary was duped and used by my worst Miss U. Hillary floated her as an ‘angel’ without checking her past, which is terrible!”
Now, during the final stretch of the presidential race, Trump’s campaign staff has taken control of his social media persona, the New York Times reported Sunday.
“Aides to Mr. Trump have finally wrested away the Twitter account that he used to colorfully — and often counterproductively — savage his rivals,” the Times wrote. According to the report into the Republican nominee’s last few days on the campaign trail:
Taking away Twitter turned out to be an essential move by his press team, which deprived him of a previously unfiltered channel for his aggressions.
On Thursday, as his plane idled on the tarmac in Miami, Mr. Trump spotted Air Force One outside his window. As he glowered at the larger plane, he told Ms. Hicks, [Hope Hicks] his spokeswoman, to jot down a proposed tweet about President Obama, who was campaigning nearby for Mrs. Clinton.
“Why is he campaigning instead of creating jobs and fixing Obamacare?” Mr. Trump said. “Get back to work.” After some light editing — Ms. Hicks added “for the American people” at the end — she published it.”
Trump representative Hicks did not reply to a request for comment from The Washington Post late Sunday.
An analysis by data scientist David Robinson may shed some light into the nature of Trump’s tweets. In August, Robinson quantified the difference in tweets sent from Trump’s account, depending on the source — whether they came from Twitter for Android or Twitter for iPhone. Robinson concluded that the Android tweets were “more hyperbolic and aggressive” whereas the iPhone tweets were closer to traditional campaign messages.
(A program like TweetDeck specifies the origin of tweets by operating system.)
Robinson hypothesized that Trump, who had been documented in the past checking Twitter using a Samsung Galaxy phone and expressing a distaste for Apple, issued the Android tweets. The iPhone tweets, lacking the emotional charge, were dictated to or written by staffers.
President Obama, campaigning for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in Florida, did not pass up the chance to get in a few digs at Trump on Sunday.
Apparently his campaign has taken away his Twitter.
In the last two days, they had so little confidence in his self-control, that they said ‘We’re just going to take away your Twitter
…. Now if somebody can’t handle a Twitter account, they can’t handle the nuclear codes. If somebody starts tweeting at 3 in the morning because SNL made fun of you, then you can’t handle the nuclear codes.
On Saturday morning, Trump tweeted, “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” As of publication, this was the last tweet sent from an Android phone.
Since then, an iPhone has been used to run Trump’s account. The most recent messages have been classic Trump boilerplate: Expressions of gratitude toward supporters, plus encouragements to vote, to Make America Great Again and to Drain the Swamp (meaning corruption in Washington, D.C., though the myth that the capital city was once a swamp is false).
There’s another angle to support that Trump no longer has his fingers on the “send” button. Since Thursday, Trump had yet to add a new notch to the more than 280 people and other targets he’d insulted on Twitter during his presidential campaign.
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