World / Politics

Trump boasts of rally crowd size during hospital visit to console Texas massacre survivors

AFP-JIJI

President Donald Trump knew just how to raise the morale of medical staff recovering from last weekend’s mass shooting in Texas: boast to them about the size of his campaign rally in the city.

Footage of Trump bragging at the University Medical Center in El Paso on Wednesday surfaced Thursday.

In the clip, which was shot by a bystander and aired on KFOX14 television, a jovial Trump is seen praising medical staff at the hospital, telling them “they’re talking about you all over the world.”

But he then starts reminiscing about a re-election campaign rally he held in El Paso in February and ridicules Democratic opponent Beto O’Rourke, who is from the border city, and who held a counterrally the same day.

“That was some crowd,” Trump says of his event, claiming there were also “twice as many outside” his arena.

“Crazy” O’Rourke, the president then says scornfully, “had like 400 people in a parking lot.”

The issue of who had the bigger crowd on that February day has been a frequent matter of concern for Trump.

Critics piled into the president after Wednesday’s trip to El Paso, where 22 people were shot dead, and to Dayton, Ohio, where nine were killed, accusing him of using victims and first responders as backdrops for his self-promotion.

The White House described Trump’s trip, which took place mostly behind closed doors, as a bid to console survivors and emergency workers in the two cities.

However, the event was marred by street protests against Trump, as well as his decision to attack Democratic opponents throughout the day on Twitter and during his few public comments.

White House officials said journalists were mostly kept away from Trump because they didn’t want to treat the hospital visits as “photo-ops.”

However, Trump and his press team quickly released their own official pictures of him grinning and doing the thumbs up with staff and patients.

The White House also released a campaign-style short video, set to dramatic music, that focuses almost entirely on Trump shaking hands with groups of people in the hospitals or posing for pictures with onlookers.