The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

He’s never going to stop

An insect flies by President Donald Trump during an event in the Rose Garden on May 15, 2020. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
Placeholder while article actions load

The former president of the United States called in to his friend Sean Hannity’s TV show Thursday night for a performance of their long-running revue “Guys Point Fingers.”

After Hannity launched into the hit number “All Your Accomplishments,” Donald Trump seized upon the Fox News host’s mention of oil production.

During his presidency, he claimed, “we had more energy jobs than we’ve ever had. Now all of those — not all, but a lot of those jobs are gone.” And then he was off to the races.

Sign up for How To Read This Chart, a weekly data newsletter from Philip Bump

“If you could start that up again and stop with all of the windmills all over the place that are ruining the atmosphere — you look at what’s happening to these beautiful prairies and plains, and these gorgeous areas of our country where they have these rusting hulks put up all over the place where — that are noisy. They’re killing the birds,” Trump continued. “I mean, I don’t get the environmentalists — and it’s a very expensive form, probably the most expensive form of energy.” (It isn’t.)

You’ve probably heard this all before, heard Trump complaining about the dead birds (though, of course, collisions with tall buildings like Trump Tower kill more) and about the ruined aesthetics and the sound. You’ve heard him go further at times, like when he claimed that wind turbines somehow caused cancer.

What you may not realize is the provenance of this obsession.

It began when Trump bought a parcel of land in Scotland, on the eastern coast. His plan was to build a golf resort, as his plan often is, and he used a combination of largesse and strong-arming to push the project forward. At one point, that meant a confrontation with a local farmer, Michael Forbes, who refused to sell his property to the mogul. A very public feud resulted — with the public siding squarely with Forbes. Glenfiddich Whisky gave Forbes its “Scot of the Year” award, spurring Trump to loudly declare that the liquor would no longer be served at his properties.

All very Trump. But then things went sideways. In 2003, a renewable energy group proposed building a wind farm off the coast, something that Trump, upon his arrival a few years later, found objectionable. He launched a series of objections in courts and in the press, spinning into a frenzy on the subject. It was in this period, a bit over a decade ago, that most of his complaints cohered. “Wind farms are killing many thousands of birds,” he tweeted in August 2012. They are “disgusting looking,” he claimed that April. Wind energy was “proving to be very costly,” he said in June. Just over and over. Scores of complaints. Fights against Scottish politicians. The works.

He lost that fight, but his position was cemented. That claim about the cost of wind energy wasn’t as far from the mark in 2012 as it is now; Trump simply hasn’t updated his priors. Wind turbine operators are addressing other problems, too, like bird deaths. But Trump is set: Wind is bad, and this is important to say.

I rehash all of this because it has an obvious implication. Trump is never going to stop claiming that the 2020 election was stolen from him, which it wasn’t. That claim is far, far less accurate than Trump’s complaints about wind energy, which at least had some connection to reality when he first snatched them to throw at his Scottish enemies. But his claims about the election are similarly cemented, and Trump will eternally find it impossible to resist trying to convince the world that he was right about this thing he decided was important to fight over.

There was a really good example of how Trump approaches his pet issues during that same song-and-dance with Hannity on Thursday. Hannity was running through his lines, pointing to a Wall Street Journal editorial criticizing President Biden. But, Hannity said, trying to change Biden’s agenda was like “banging your head against the wall.” Did Trump have a response?

A beat, and then Trump picked up the cue. Time for “All I Want (Is a Wall)”!

“So, we would have had the wall completed in three weeks. It was largely completed. We did almost 500 miles of wall in the southern border. It was really working. It really had an impact,” Trump began. He kept going, but you know the tune.

Didn’t matter that Hannity wasn’t talking about the wall on the border. Trump was. Stimulus; response.

Trump appearances by now are like those greatest-hit albums they used to plug in 30-minute infomercials in the 1990s, just Trump dropping his lines as “Building a Wall” and “What About the Fraud” scroll slowly upward on the screen. He hears “wall” and he starts talking “wall.” He hears “energy” and he launches into “wind turbines.” He hears “election” and you get some “fraud.”

It’s going to be like this forever. We’re going to simply have to deal with Trump making unfounded claims about election fraud for the rest of his life, just as we’re occasionally going to hear baffling claims about wind energy. Trump has been mad about wind turbines for more than a decade, the equivalent of one day of every week he has been alive. He’s not going to stop now.

One subject that Hannity didn’t broach with Trump was the letter sent to his daughter Ivanka from the House committee investigating the attack at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 — an attack that, of course, derived entirely from Trump’s false claims about the election. Hannity didn’t raise it, perhaps since he himself made an appearance.

The letter discusses a collective effort to get Trump to stop making false claims about his 2020 loss, mentioning that “Sean Hannity appears to have been part of those efforts.” After all, the Fox News host had texted Trump’s press secretary the day after the attack outlining a five-point set of guidelines for Trump to protect his legacy. First on the list? “No more stolen election talk.”

Good luck with that, Sean. Just stick to your lines and do the show and keep the audience happy.