AMES, Iowa—Donald Trump isn’t backing down in the face of an onslaught of conservative criticism over the comments he made here on Saturday questioning John McCain’s bravery during the Vietnam War. “A number of my competitors for the Republican nomination have no business running for president,” the reality TV star-turned-GOP frontrunner wrote in an op-ed published by USA Today on Sunday night. “I do not need to be lectured by any of them.”
Trump’s defiance rests in no small part on the reception he believes he received from the nearly 3,000 people who attended the summit of Iowa Christians, most of whom rose to their feet as Trump walked off stage. “I got a standing ovation, the biggest ovation they had all weekend, by far,” Trump said during a phone interview on ABC’s This Week on Sunday. “When I left the room, it was a total standing ovation. It was wonderful to see. Nobody was insulted.” The Donald offered similar applause-themed justification in an interview with the New York Times.
Fortunately, the C-SPAN cameras were rolling during the daylong event, and while cutaways to the crowd were few and far between, you can still see clearly that Trump’s version of events doesn’t line up with reality thanks to this supercut by Slate’s Anne Marie Lindemann:
Frank Luntz, the Republican pollster who served as moderator during the event, estimates that only about 60 percent of the crowd came to their feet when Trump was done talking. I recall it being more than that—but still nowhere near the thunderous ovations received by Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, and Lindsey Graham, all of whom brought the house down during their time onstage. The ovation given to the brash billionaire, meanwhile, was standard—Marco Rubio, the very first candidate on the schedule, was greeted with a standing ovation when he walked out on stage, and each and every one of the nine other candidates who followed also received at least a partial one, either when they came out or when they left.
Trump, though, was already seeing what he wanted to even before the event was over. “See, I get a standing ovation,” he told Luntz as he was leaving the stage and with eight other candidates still to come. “Other people don’t.”
Elsewhere in Slate: The Case for Covering Trump: The Donald can’t win the nomination, but the media has a duty to cover his bigoted, doomed, PR stunt of a campaign anyway.