Did the president just thwart access to the press in order to produce his own photo op at a hospital treating victims of a mass shooting?
Members of the White House Press Corps were told by the Trump administration that they would not be granted access to President Donald Trump as he greeted and consoled victims (and victims’ families) of a mass shooting when he visited a hospital in Dayton Ohio, on Wednesday.
The rationale by the White House was that the president wanted the event to be “about victims,” and not be a “photo op,” Los Angeles Times White House reporter Eli Stokols tweeted out.
It appeared that Trump’s team had done just that, however, as Trump’s own Twitter account shared a video they themselves produced, depicting Trump meeting with hospital staff, families of victims, smiling for photographs with police, and more.
Travel pool was told Trump’s hospital visit was closed to pool because this is “about victims…not a photo op.” But it took the WH just a couple hours to release its own video highlights and photos. https://t.co/rPHYrsrJeP
— Eli Stokols (@EliStokols) August 7, 2019
Several social media users sharply criticized the video as appearing to be a campaign video or photo opportunity promoting Trump following the mass shooting. The president was also chastised by these users for acting jovial and smiling in the wake of the tragedy, which saw nine individuals killed and dozens more injured.
There's nothing like mass shootings for the perfect photo op.
— Chris Fradkin (@chrisfradkin) August 7, 2019
I thought Trump was there to console a mourning, grieving city. Why are all these doctors and nurses smiling and posing for photos? This looks like a party, not a wake.
— 🌊❄️🏳️🌈Dexter 2.0 (@Texas_Dex) August 7, 2019
Of course you made this tragedy about you. You're truly despicable.
— Suze (@Sue_Zee_Que4) August 7, 2019
You know who never turned a visit with victims of mass shootings into a campaign/stroke the ego commercial??
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA.
YOU aren't good enough to shine his shoes!!#LameDuckTrump
— I've been here before to #resist.🧡 (@AmyBInColaSC) August 7, 2019
Grinning culpable opportunist.
— John Pavlovitz (@johnpavlovitz) August 7, 2019
While the criticisms could be looked upon by supporters of the president as being based out of partisanship or disdain for him, Trump’s very own social media director Dan Scavino seemingly confirmed the administration’s intent for the visit in a tweet he himself sent out about it, as it was happening, the New York Times reported.
“The President was treated like a Rock Star inside the hospital, which was all caught on video,” Scavino wrote. “They all loved seeing their great President!”
Because the president limited access to who could report on his interactions with individuals in the hospital, it’s impossible to confirm whether Scavino’s description is accurate. Certainly, the video the administration released shows support from some, but if any criticisms of the president came up directly from victims, their families, or others present, it wouldn’t have been shared within the video his team produced.
Trump’s visit to Dayton itself (and later to El Paso, Texas, where another mass shooting occurred last weekend) was somewhat controversial to begin with. Several residents in the city expressed misgivings this week about Trump visiting their city after the tragedy.
Among those critical of Trump was Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, a Democrat, who blasted the president for his rhetoric over the years and indecisiveness on the topic of gun reforms, the Washington Post reported.
“Watching the president for the past few years over the issue of guns, I don’t think he knows what he believes, frankly,” Whaley said on Tuesday, the day before Trump visited the city.