The Slatest

Donald Trump Flat Out Lies About How Obama Reacted to a Protester at a Rally

A Trump supporter disrupts remarks by President Obama at a Hillary Clinton campaign event in Fayetteville, North Carolina, on Nov. 4, 2016.

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

The Republican presidential candidate’s lies really shouldn’t surprise us anymore. He has been at it for months, seemingly impervious to fact checkers and any kind of effort to hold him accountable for saying things that simply aren’t true. But it was still shocking Friday night when Donald Trump told supporters a story that didn’t just include a fib or two, but was pretty much the opposite of what actually happened.

Complaining about how the media always focuses on protesters at his rallies, Trump said Obama “was talking to the protester, screaming at him, really screaming at him,” adding that “if I spoke the way Obama spoke to the protester, they would say, ‘He became unhinged!’ ” He then reiterated his point, saying that Obama “spent so much time screaming at this protester and, frankly, it was a disgrace.”

Sounds shocking, until you look at what actually happened and start wondering whether Trump really is living in a parallel reality where up is down and defending is attacking. There was indeed a pro-Trump protester who interrupted Obama’s speech Friday afternoon, but the president chastised the crowd for booing him and defended the Trump supporter’s right to free speech. The protester, who was wearing a military uniform, stood up in the bleachers at a get-out-the-vote rally and was immediately booed and heckled by the gathered Hillary Clinton supporters. Obama immediately tried to get the crowd to calm down. “Hold up! Hold up! Hold up! Hold up!” Obama shouted again and again as the crowd ignored his pleas. The president put on a professorial tone, clearly frustrated by the way the crowd was reacting to the protester. “Everybody! Hey!” Obama yelled. “I told you to be focused and you’re not focused right now.”

The president then asked the crowd to “sit down and be quiet for a second” and proceeded with a lecture on why they shouldn’t get worked up over a protester. “You’ve got an older gentleman who is supporting his candidate. He’s not doing nothing. You don’t have to worry about him. This is what I mean about folks not being focused,” Obama said. “First of all, we live in a country that respects free speech. Second of all, it looks like maybe he might have served in our military and we ought to respect that. Third of all, he was elderly and we got to respect our elders. And fourth of all, don’t boo—vote!”

In contrast, Trump has repeatedly encouraged violence against protesters at his rallies and even yearned for a time when security could be rougher with protesters.

Read more Slate coverage of the 2016 campaign.