Trump appears to bring his own laugh track and cheering section with him to events, and some social media accounts are getting scrubbed when they point that out.
If you saw President Trump’s speech at CIA headquarters on Saturday, you may have questioned or been surprised that the attendees were applauding, cheering, and laughing at some of the comments and claims he was making. It may have seemed odd that an organization that should be non-partisan and is married to facts with more intimacy than nearly anyone on the planet would react to him as if he were headlining in Vegas. If you thought any of this was a bit strange, not only were you probably right, you also weren’t alone.
“There is nobody that feels stronger about the intelligence community and the CIA than Donald Trump,” the president said, during an elaborate song and dance to dissolve a very real and public feud he had over Russian hacking. At one point Trump had referred to members of the intelligence community as “Nazis” for circulating information that alleged Russian spies had collected blackmail material on him, including a video of him with prostitutes in a Moscow hotel.
Trump then called out the “dishonest media,” as he had during the campaign, and was seemingly met with cheers and laughter from the crowd.
Trump stood before what was supposedly a room of agents, with his back to the famous Memorial Wall honoring those who have died serving their country. “You’re going to get so much backing from me, you’re going to say, ‘Please, Mr. President, no more backing,’” he said, getting some odd claps and chuckles.
A former top CIA official dismissed the attendee’s apparent enthusiasm for Trump saying, “They are good, polite people. He’s the president, and he is kissing their ass, why wouldn’t they clap?”
Newsweek reports the following explanation for the laughter and applause:
Trump’s seemingly warm reception might have been somewhat stage-managed, according to various accounts. The Washington Post’s longtime CIA watcher, Greg Miller, tweeted Saturday that the audience was ‘a self-selected bunch: CIA employees who signed up to come in on a Saturday to see the new POTUS. Mostly Trump voters.’ A pool reporter selected to witness the closed event indicated ‘the cheering and clapping was not from the CIA staffers but people who accompanied Trump,’ according to The Post’s fact-checker Glenn Kessler. He later clarified on Twitter that it was ‘unclear who the people on the side were. But the folks in the front apparently did not react until the end.’
Ben Taub, a reporter for “The New Yorker” also tweeted about the event: “There it is. Trump brought his people to cheer for him and create illusion of CIA support on television.”
That tweet was in reaction to CBS News Senior Producer Robert Gifford’s tweet stating, “More from CNN Prod per pool: “…the persons who are on the side…are the ones clapping and reacting. We do not know who these people are.”
More from CNN Prod per pool: "…the persons who are on the side…are the ones clapping and reacting. We do not know who these people are."
— Robert Gifford (@giff18) January 21, 2017
Ben Taub’s verified Twitter account, “@bentaub91,” seems to have been shut down.
Author and comedian, Sarah Cooper, examined the incidents on Medium in a post titled, “This is Psychological Warfare.”
The clapping and laughing you hear in both instances are Trump’s own people, who initiate and get the crowd to follow. They are sycophants who he brings to cheer him on and make it seem like what he’s saying is being well-received. And it’s working. The laugh track was invented to cue the audience to the jokes and encourage laughter in response. But it has another effect: if you hear people laughing and you’re not, you start to question if maybe there’s something wrong with you for not getting it. You might even impulsively start laughing just to fit in, not because you think anything is funny.
The cameras in the room were all fixed on Trump. To protect the identity of the people in the room, cameras were not allowed to pan the crowd, so we have no way of knowing exactly what transpired in that room. We have to rely on the handful of reporters and technicians that were actually in the room.
It would appear, however, that much like the fake folders he brought on stage earlier this month and the actors he paid to cheer for him at his launch, Trump travels with an entourage to laugh at his jokes and cheer when he utters comments that would normally cause sane people to gasp.
Former CIA Director Leon Panetta’s spokesman, George Little, also had something to add about Trump staging the event in what can only be described as hallowed ground at the agency. Little wrote the following on Facebook, according to the Newsweek article:
Today the president of the United States stood in front of the Memorial Wall honoring the CIA’s fallen and mocked key institutions of our democracy, threatened to steal Iraq’s oil, and used what is supposed to be a non-political government agency—one he recently accused of Nazi-style behavior—as a political backdrop. This will go down as the most disastrous speech ever given at CIA Headquarters.
The Facebook post also seems to have been removed.