President Trump spent Wednesday traveling to Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, visiting communities that were the sites of mass shootings last weekend. It’s the sort of thing presidents do, offering condolences and comforting those affected by a disaster. When there was a mass shooting at a church in Charleston, S.C., in 2015 for example, Barack Obama visited the city and gave a speech eulogizing a pastor who had been killed and decrying gun violence.
Trump’s visits were a bit more opaque. The White House kept journalists at a distance during his stops at hospitals in both cities, telling reporters at one point that this was because the visit was “about the victims” and “not a photo op.”
Asked if Trump was well received, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told reporters on Air Force One, “I don’t think that there was a supportive/not supportive element to this. This was a ‘How are you feeling?’ ‘We’re with you.’ We’re sorry this happened to you.' It wasn’t about supportive or not supportive."
And then Trump tweeted some videos from his trip.
The first was an overview of his stop in Dayton. It’s framed entirely as a documentation of his trip, beginning with a shot of the Dayton skyline from the presidential motorcade and then pairing brief shots of Trump shaking hands with an evocative musical score. Several snippets show Trump posing for photos with police officers or medical staff, with the president smiling and giving a thumbs up.
Curious about how much of the video featured Trump, we walked through it, frame-by-frame. The video was about 50 seconds long in total. Trump is visible for about 37 seconds of that, or nearly three-quarters of the entire video. That includes only shots in which Trump’s head is visible — meaning that it doesn’t include several shots of him shaking hands.
What we don’t learn from that video is anything about the people with whom Trump was meeting. We can identify their jobs from their uniforms, but there is no audible discussion about what they saw or about how the federal government can help. It’s just Trump, working the room. At the end, a tag: “America stands with Ohio!”
After leaving El Paso, Trump tweeted a similar video. The structure is the same: Trump arrives, he shakes hands, talks with some people, gives some thumbs ups. In one shot, Trump talks with a young boy wearing a signed MAGA hat.
This one is nearly a minute long. Trump’s visible for about 39 seconds of that.
It ends the same way: “America stands with Texas!”
Late last night, right as Trump was landing back in the Washington area, he tweeted a video overview of the entire day. This one is a little different: The music is less emotional and more background-to-an-NFL-Films-video. The focus isn’t on Trump consoling or talking with people; instead, the focus is on people who wanted to clap at and take pictures with the president.
It’s only 27 seconds long, but Trump’s in 20 of them. The shots in which he isn’t visible are mostly shots in which people are waving at him or scrambling to get a look at him.
That includes shots from inside the hospitals, visits which Grisham insisted were not “about supportive or not supportive.” That third video is pinned to Trump’s Twitter page, the first thing seen by anyone who visits it.
On Thursday morning, video recorded by one of the people who met with Trump at the hospital in El Paso emerged. In it, Trump praises the hospital’s work — and then talks about his turnout at a February rally, disparages former El Paso congressman Beto O’Rourke and says how the results of the 2016 election surprised the media.