On Friday morning, President Joe Biden repeatedly fell up the steps of Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base and almost immediately, comparisons ensued as conservatives and Republicans recalled the liberal media’s wall-to-wall coverage of then-President Trump holding of a water glass and walking slowly down a ramp at the June 13, 2020 West Point commencement.
For CNN and MSNBC, the ordeal was treated like the 21st century’s Zapruder film. A NewsBusters analysis has found that CNN and MSNBC spent a heaping 50 minutes and 55 seconds (excluding teases) on June 15 reveling in the ordeal as a sign of Trump’s supposed mental and physical decline that had to be further investigated.
Excluding teases, CNN mentioned it on seven shows for a total of 22 minutes and 13 seconds. Never Trumper David Frum started it off on New Day when he said it was proof of his “physical decline,” which led co-host Alisyn Camerota to later helm a full segment that wonder if there was “something, possibly neurological” wrong with Trump
Dr. Sanjay Gupta repeatedly said he wasn’t going to speculate, but he did just that as he wondered if there’s “balance problems” or “numbness in his feet” because there’s “lots of unknowns” about Trump’s health. Later in the day, he called the ordeal part of a “concerning” pattern regarding his well-being.
The New York Times’s Maggie Haberman fueled the fire, hyping that “there are a lot of questions around the President's physical fitness” that are entirely “legitimate.”
Inside Politics host John King touted it a few hours later, telling political correspondent Abby Phillip that Trump “looked a big shaky” in a sign of “balance issues,” leading Phillip to reply that Trump has lacked an “ability to sort of convey information accurately” and so it’s fair game to wonder.
Other offenders included Jim Acosta, Wolf Blitzer, Erin Burnett, and Kaitlan Collins, but the most hilarious character was none other than human meme Chris Cillizza, whom Brianna Keilar brought on so he could hawk his CNN.com piece “Why the Donald Trump-West Point ramp story actually matters.”
Keilar said Trump was “facing some new questions about his health” and, for his part, Cillizza cited Trump’s age and how we “know so little about Donald Trump's past medical history.”
As for the most deranged CNN pontificator, medical contributor Dr. Jonathan Reiner ruled West Point was proof that Trump’s “speech” had “become very, very slow as if he is struggling to read,” his “lack of hand strength” was “very, very unusual,” and his gait was “almost feeble.”
Reiner appeared a few hours later with CNN Tonight host Don Lemon where, unsurprisingly, the speculation continued (click “expand,” emphasis mine):
LEMON: For years, the President has used attacks on his opponents, his opponent's health, unfounded against them. Remember the whole Hillary Clinton thing? It’s — apparently, she was on her death bed, not true. But now questions are raised about the President's health. So, take a look at this. He walks slowly and cautiously down a ramp at West Point on Saturday and needed two hands to steady a glass of water. Remember that? The President tweeting: “The ramp that I descended after my West Point Commencement speech was very long & steep, had no handrail and, most importantly, it was very slippery. The last thing I was going to do is ‘fall’ for the fake news to have fun with.” Well, it certainly would not be a laughing matter if the President ever fell. And he did turn 74, 74 years old this weekend. Americans have every reason to question his health but walking down a ramp, holding a rail, probably no issue, but now you know how it feels, don't you? What goes around comes around.
LEMON: The President is defending himself over his cautious walk down a ramp at West Point — at the West Point graduation but he’s only putting questions over his physical condition back into the spotlight....Doctor, I had to be honest. I don't want to do the same thing to the President that he and his ilk did to Hillary Clinton. It could be a slippery ramp, it could be steep. It could not have been steps. Who knows? I mean, I've walked down ramps like that. But maybe it was over the top defense or I don't know what is going on, but he seemed really defensive about it. He tweeted out a defense of his steady, saying that, you know, the ramp was slippery. It is a clear day. I don't know. But what do you think?
REINER: Hi, Don. When I saw the tape from West Point, there were three things that caught my eye. First of all, his speech is awful. He has really slowed down. It almost looks like he is having difficulty reading the teleprompter and his tone has become this really striking monotone. Like he is literally struggling to read. The second thing that was odd was — was when he paused for a moment to get a sip of water and he struggled to raise his right hand to his mouth and it almost looks like he just about gets the glass to his mouth, sort of fails to do that and then he reaches with his left hand to sort of assist the glass up to his mouth. Very, very strange. And then there was the very, very slow walk down — down the ramp. I have no idea what is going on with the President and that’s just the problem. We have no idea of the President's medical status.
Somehow, there was still plenty of tin foil to go around on MSNBC with five shows spending 28 minutes and 42 seconds playing doctor and psychiatrist. MSNBC started even earlier with the speculation as the 5:00 a.m. Eastern hour show First Look host Yasmin Vossoughian said Trump’s 74th birthday and West Point visit were “bringing up new questions of his health.”
Vossoughian dismissed Trump’s claim that the ramp was “slippery,” arguing “[t]his is not the first time he's had difficulty walking down ramps.”
Morning Joe gave it nearly four minutes (and then replayed most of it two hours later) and took great delight. Co-host Mika Brzezinski said Trump’s address “sparked some concerns about the President's own health” while husband Joe Scarborough huffed about Trump’s how “images like this and even his speaking ability, or lack thereof...undercuts their argument that Biden is an doddering old man.”
The Associated Press’s Jonathan Lemire went all in on Trump as a President on the ropes: “[T]he matter of a President's health is of great importance to the American public and there have been questions about some of the information reported in President Trump's previous physicals.”
He added: “In terms of the politics of this, the Trump campaign for months now has been trying to suggest that Joe Biden was not up for the job....It is absolutely harder to make the case when we see video like this where the President himself is having momentarily stumbles, momentary lapses, and, you know, looks, straining for a word or whatever it might be.”
Perpetually fixated on Trump, Deadline: White House spent a whopping 12 minutes and 34 seconds trying to will into existence a sickened 45th President.
With Lyin’ Brian Williams and alongside host Nicolle Wallace, their panel had plenty to say in trying to turn over every nook and cranny in search of what it meant for Trump’s ability to stay in office (click “expand,” emphasis mine):
WILLIAMS: The President's health was already called into question this past weekend when he was seen on video cautiously walking down a ramp after delivering a commencement address at West Point. In fairness, he has always had issues with descending stairs and ramps. The President also appeared to struggle to take a one-handed sip of water during the speech. As you can see, he appeared to need both hands to reach the glass to his mouth and for the record, as a Google image search will tell you, he often uses both hands to drink liquids.
TIM O’BRIEN: [V]anity and his inadequacies often overwhelm other important discussions and obviously what's been raised as well in this focus on his health and whether he's impaired is that we’ve never had lot of transparency around President Trump releasing his medal records or his doctors speaking in a fulsome and meaningful way about his health.
WILLIAMS: Tim O’Brien, back to the — back to the incumbent, more than one West Point grad last night on social media just couldn't help it...And this particular USMA grad thanked the President for his courage in dealing with the — the slippery ramp.
WALLACE: Until he tweeted — it was very slippery on a day in New York with no rain or wetness or — or, you know, mist or fog in the air, I'm not sure it was a story, but there he was, the video's up now, struggling, he takes one step with his left foot and then the right foot comes and meets the left foot. And seems to walk with great difficulty, but until he tweeted about it, I'm not sure it would have warranted a story in The New York Times and The Washington Post print editions today.
PHILIP RUCKER: [T]he weather there was sunny, warm, the grass was totally dry, so I'm not sure what he went by slippery on the ramp. I mean, we all saw the footage, he did run for the final ten feet, but, you know, nonetheless, he was so bothered, I think, by the criticism on Twitter of that video, especially by the Republican operatives like George Conway and others with the Lincoln Project who’ve really gotten under the President's skin, that he took it upon himself to offer that explanation, which was not entirely consistent with the facts and the reality that we all saw with our own eyes. So, that's what became the news story a day later.
WALLACE: And here's why it matters. I worked for a President who had to brief out regular examines, none of its dignified when you have an endoscopy or colonoscopy or a doctor has to go out and read out all the gory details....The American people have always, until this point, had a right to know about a President's health. This President had a mysterious visit to a hospital and Brian and I were talking in the last block about just how extensive the health care offerings are for staff at the White House. You can get vaccinated, you can get a checkup, you can get counseling services, you can get a lot of medicine conducted at the white house as a staffer, so you have to imagine there's even more available to Donald Trump. Are any theories about why he went to the hospital earlier this year and any connection between his struggle to hold a water glass with one hand and that walk down the ramp?
RUCKER: Yeah, Nicolle, there are plenty of theories and I'm not a medical expert nor do I have particular insight into Donald Trump's medical history, so, I'm not going to advance any of those theories, but there are a lot of questions that the White House has not answered about that trip to Walter Reed.
RICHARD STENGEL: I — I don't even know what to say about the water glass and — but no, he has no empathy. He has no conscience. He has no feeling for the American public and what ails people, about what bothers them. You know, we have always had the President of the United States as a kind of benign father figure for the country. That's what we like best and that's how we want him to function and he's just unable to do that. He's the terrible father. He's the authoritarian father, the punishing father, he's not the consoling or grieving father and that's something I think we all miss and to your point about his holding the water glass, I am also not a physician or a doctor...Well, we need to know the health of the President before we elect him. Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. We, as a government, need to understand who we're electing and he has been just a box with this. We need to know the medications he's taking, we need to — he needs a mental acuity exam.
WALLACE: So, there — there is a conversation to have whether or not if we have the guts to have it if he's fit to serve as the country's commander in chief.
STENGEL: Absolutely and, you know, we've talked about the 25th Amendment in the past[.]
Filling in for Chris Hayes on All In, Ali Velshi boasted that Trump’s “weekend wasn’t so great for him...because the President has not been transparent about things like his finances or his health and because he’s not transparent, it causes people to ask questions they otherwise might not ask.”
Giving a play-by-play of both West Point movements, Velshi insisted that “[w]e have had great presidents who battled physical adversity but this President can’t have it both ways” in “mak[ing] questionable claims about the health of others, including his opponents while revealing nothing about himself.”
Williams closed out the night on The 11th Hour with his “Last Thing Before We Go” segment that mocked Trump as struggling to drink water and even walk (click “expand”):
WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go here tonight, did you see or can you remember a single quote from the President’s commencement speech at West Point on Saturday? If the answer is no, that may be because of what you likely did see out of that event — the president’s failed attempt to drink water one-handed and his halting journey down a ramp. The day was quickly branded water gait, G-A-I-T, for the amount of news it generated. First things first. Here is the first attempt at the water hazard. The President almost gets there before needing an assist from his other hand. Some folks who clearly haven’t been paying attention were shocked by it, but this is not the President’s first rodeo when it comes to two-handed drinking. It’s even been theorized that he often tries to get through remarks despite being parched because he doesn’t love drinking water in public, but sometimes he is forced to give in as he did twice just minutes apart back in 2017.
TRUMP [on 11/15/17]: 17,000 jobs. Thank you. They don’t have water. That’s okay. What? Oh, it’s okay. Oh. [DRINKS WATER] [SCREENWIPE] that will create jobs in the United States. [DRINKS WATER]
WILLIAMS: On the other front, it’s been said and talked about for years. The President has, let’s call it, an issue with ramps and stairs. It was on full display at West Point. The incident launched news stories about his age and health. It’s true that at 74, he’s older now than any other first- term President we’ve ever had, and his health reports are famously incomplete....The ramps and stairs thing could be a full-on phobia like his lifetime aversion to germs. Many of us remember the Donald Trump in the New York years who went years without shaking hands and often lectured people on how dirty a practice it was. He has since said that you can’t be a politician without it though he’s been trying to avoid it during the pandemic. It’s a lot.
But when it comes to Biden’s struggles, CNN and MSNBC both accepted his administration’s excuse that it was a particularly windy day in the Washington D.C. metro area. Because when their friends are in power, friends don’t hang friends out to dry with such a concerning narrative about the Commander-in-Chief.