The scene President Trump illustrated while addressing a southwest Iowa crowd this week was like something out of a storybook.
He harked back to Feb. 28, 2017, when he sat in the Oval Office surrounded by, as Trump put it Tuesday, “homebuilders and farmers mostly, and ranchers.” The president was preparing to sign an executive order instructing a review of the Obama-era Waters of the United States rule, which he and other critics opposed for levying excessive federal regulation over farmers’ land.
When he put pen to paper, Trump recalled, the nearly two dozen men and women standing behind him wept with joy. The emotional outpouring was apparently a first for a contingent in the room, as many of them had never cried before.
“And I signed that, and behind me I had homebuilders and farmers mostly, and ranchers. And many of them never cried in their life, including when they born, and they were crying. Yeah,” Trump said. “It’s true, though. They were crying behind me. You know that. You know that, Pete. They were crying because we gave them back their land. We took it away. It was like eminent domain. It was terrible. We gave it back.”
President Trump, June 11, 2019
A truly heartwarming moment — if it had actually happened that way. Oval Office video of Trump signing the executive order two years ago tells a slightly different story.
It’s clear those standing behind Trump were enthusiastic about the order. When the president asked rhetorically, “So, how important is this?” they blurted out a synchronous “very.”
Many smiled. Some nodded along. Nearly everyone applauded.
But not one person in the video is seen crying.
The conflicting versions of events were noticed by journalist and fact-checker Daniel Dale, who tweeted the observation Thursday afternoon. He’ll be the first to tell you that Trump’s stories about people crying around him are nothing new. As The Washington Post’s JM Rieger wrote earlier this year, a number of Trump’s tales involve “powerful” or “strong” people shedding tears upon meeting him.
In fairness, Rieger notes, Trump has brought some of his supporters to tears. But he also has fabricated crying stories about Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and has claimed — at least twice — that unnamed chief executives of unspecified “big companies” had turned on the waterworks in his presence.
“I know, the Oval Office can do that. I have had some of the biggest executives in the world and they’ve been here many times. I said, have you ever been to the Oval Office, and they said no. I mean, I once had here like the biggest, from the biggest companies. And they walk into the Oval Office and they start crying. I said, I promise I won’t say to your various stockholders that you cried. But I have seen people cry that you’d never believe.”
President Trump, 2017 National Teacher of the Year Ceremony
The White House did not return a request for comment Thursday evening.
The president’s remarks during that 2017 executive order signing, where he claimed the Waters of the United States rule had cost the country “hundreds of thousands of jobs,” were given a maximum four Pinocchios by The Post’s Fact Checker at the time. As of Monday, Trump has made nearly 10,800 false or misleading statements since taking office, according to the Fact Checker’s database.
One thing’s for certain: No one standing behind Trump cried as the order was signed. The evidence is pretty cut and dried.
JM Rieger and Michelle Ye Hee Lee contributed to this report.