Coup-attempting former President Donald Trump appeared on his home turf Thursday evening, with Fox News host and informal adviser Sean Hannity allowing him to lie unchallenged on a variety of topics for an hour before a “town hall” audience in Iowa.
Within the first 20 minutes alone, Trump falsely claimed that he had forced China to pay the United States billions of dollars in tariffs, that the U.S. had left behind $85 billion in military equipment in Afghanistan and the U.S. had retaken the lead in spaceflight thanks to his creation of the Space Force.
In fact, the tariffs imposed on foreign goods are paid by Americans who import them, the military hardware left in Afghanistan was the property of the Afghan government, and the U.S. Space Force was merely a renaming of the Air Force Space Command, which had existed since the Reagan administration.
The one potentially news-making question Hannity asked, about the existence of an audio recording in which Trump reportedly admits he knew that he was in possession of a classified document at his Florida country club, Trump answered: “I don’t know anything about it.”
Thursday’s program was in marked contrast to one produced by CNN in New Hampshire last month, when moderator Kaitlan Collins, a former White House reporter during Trump’s presidency, repeatedly fact-checked Trump in real time, particularly about his claims of a “stolen” election in 2020.
Hannity opened the program by making it clear he would not be doing any of that. “It’s not my job to debate the candidate,” he said.
He then went on to call Democratic President Joe Biden corrupt and mocked him for tripping over a sandbag on stage at the end of the Air Force Academy commencement earlier Thursday. He then brought Trump on stage.
“That was a bad fall,” Trump agreed.
Hannity, despite working for a self-described “news” network, actually spoke at a Trump rally in 2020 and, according to documents revealed by the House Jan. 6 committee, was advising the Trump White House in the days after the mob he had called to Washington on that day attacked the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to keep him in power.
And although Thursday’s event was billed as a “town hall” in which voters would ask questions, only two audience members did so at the very end.
Trump, as he has in the past, both took credit for last year’s Dobbs v. Jackson abortion decision by the U.S. Supreme Court ― “I got rid of Roe v. Wade” ― but also blamed GOP politicians for losing in the 2022 midterms because of the abortion rights issue.
Trump at one point repeated his bizarre claim that no one in Chinatown in Washington, D.C., speaks English, and this time he added the claim that “Chinatown is in favor of China.” Later, he made the equally bizarre claim that “our military has no ammunition.”
As is his custom, Trump insulted his rivals for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, calling Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis both “DeSanctis” and “DeSanctimonious,” and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson “Ada Hutchinson.”
And, as also is his custom, Trump spent much of the 44 minutes of actual broadcast time complaining about the various prosecutions into his actions and his two impeachments, once again calling all of it a “witch hunt.”
Trump is under investigation for his Jan. 6, 2021, coup attempt both by Georgia prosecutors for trying to overturn his election loss in that state as well as the Department of Justice for his actions leading up to and on the day of the Capitol assault. The DOJ is also investigating his retention of top-secret documents in defiance of a subpoena.
Separately, Trump is under felony indictment in New York for falsifying business records in order to cover up a $130,000 hush money payment to an adult film actor in the days leading up to the 2016 election.
Despite this, he remains the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination in recent polls.