Hillary Clinton's campaign and its on-air allies have gotten untold mileage out of replaying the worst Donald Trump gaffes, over and over again, typically paired with video of actors grimacing at them. Trump's spasmodic impression of a physically disabled reporter, which focus groups have identified as his most offensive moment, is played yet again in the Priorities USA ad "Watching." But so is another Trump quote that has been wrenched out of context. In this ad, a man whose mien screams "working-class white voter" looks ahead glumly as Trump says, "You have to be wealthy in order to be great. I'm sorry to say it."
Trump, who has done for the presidential campaign gaffe record what Michael Phelps has done to swimming records, has said plenty of inconvenient things about his wealth. This was not one of them. During a May 26 campaign stop in North Dakota, a pre-teleprompter Trump was making a standard point about how he'd lead America to prosperity when he started in on "wealth."
"There's one more thing we have to do to make America wealthy again," he said. "And you have to be wealthy in order to be great, I'm sorry to say it."
Bafflingly, this Trump quote has been used against him for months, as proof that he thinks that no one can be great unless he or she is rich. Assigning a "mostly true" rating to stories about the quote, the fact-checkers at Snopes explained that Trump "was talking about making America great again and was not referring to individual greatness." Some observers, like the Post's Jennifer Rubin, made a substantive argument that linking national greatness to wealth was "a repudiation of values such as respect for human dignity and generosity."
But many pundits — and even reporters — saw the quote through mangled retweets or news releases, and treated it like a near-sociopathic "admission" that Trump hated the poor. With the first part of the quote clipped out, Priorities USA has done the seemingly impossible — quoted Donald Trump unfairly.