Donald Trump may still be contagious, but on Saturday, he held a rally at the White House less than a week since he was released from Walter Reed National Military Center following his novel coronavirus diagnosis and multiple reports of some significant side effects from COVID-19. There’s plenty still unknown about when Trump first tested positive, how many people were infected, and whether it’s even safe for him to be around other people.
But as we get further away from his hospitalization and subsequent release on Monday, we’re learning more about the way he initially wanted to leave the hospital. Trump has made plenty of public statements, including some vulgar ones on the Rush Limbaugh show, but he hasn’t mentioned he wanted to pull a Cam Newton when he left Walter Reed.
According to a story in the New York Times on Saturday, Trump had pitched some confidants on a dramatic plan to leave the hospital while looking weak, only to reveal a Superman shirt under his customary suit.
In several phone calls last weekend from the presidential suite at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Mr. Trump shared an idea he was considering: When he left the hospital, he wanted to appear frail at first when people saw him, according to people with knowledge of the conversations. But underneath his button-down dress shirt, he would wear a Superman T-shirt, which he would reveal as a symbol of strength when he ripped open the top layer. He ultimately did not go ahead with the stunt.
There are a lot of parallels to connect here, including Trump apparently wanting to riff on the first appearance of Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka in appearing to be frailer than he actually was in order to get a big response to the shirt stunt. What Trump did instead, of course, was return to the White House and walk up a flight of stairs to the South Portico, where he then removed his mask and saluted in what became a campaign ad or sorts. That was bizarre in it’s own right, but at least it didn’t look like a touchdown celebration that could draw a flag in the NFL on Sundays.