Whether intentional or wholly accidental, Donald Trump flirted with something like empathy for Joe Biden in a Fox News town hall when the former Republican president failed to ridicule the Democrat for falling onstage, making it about himself instead and closing the topic by saying “things like that do happen.”
Biden was caught on camera stumbling after delivering a graduation commencement speech Thursday, and later said he had tripped on a sandbag and was unhurt. Sean Hannity, who was hosting the town hall Thursday night, served up the incident as the first topic of the long Q&A session.
“I want to start with the current president … did you see the video of when he fell?” Hannity began, diverging from a longstanding journalistic tradition of leading with the most important and relevant information.
But Trump failed – at least by his own standards – to capitalize on the opportunity to trash and smear an opponent. Rather than repeat half-baked nicknames, hurl insults or swamp his response with wild superlatives, Trump instead mused about why presidents can’t be seen falling onstage – even bringing his own lived experience in for a frame of reference.
“Not too good. It’s sad. It’s sad,” Trump said, shaking his head. “You become president and you’re sort of not allowed to do that, but it’s happened. It’s happened. And it’s happened pretty badly. We won’t go into it. But we all know the ones and … they count those acts, they never forget but … that was a bad fall.”
Hannity’s naked efforts to get Trump to bash Biden’s physical vigor then backfired even more bigly as the host pivoted to Trump’s own near-slip moment in 2020, when the then-president was seen walking gingerly down a ramp after delivering a speech at West Point.
Broaching the West Point moment by making excuses for it, Hannity said: “I remember the media made so much … I think you were at West Point at the time, you were coming down a ramp, it didn’t have a rail, you had dress shoes on … which have very slippery soles.”
Distracted by Hannity’s open invitation to talk about himself, Trump quickly veered off the prescribed course before he was able to level any criticisms at Biden.
“[Dress shoes] look a little better, but you better not walk in rain, that’s true,” Trump responded, his mind wandering to that day and his own role in it. “I think I made my best speech – that was my best speech, I was so proud of it, it was pouring – and I said, ‘This speech was so good,’ and I said ‘How do I get down,’ ‘Sir you have to go down the ramp,’ I said ‘The same one I came up?’ … it was a long, like an ice-skating rink … but I said ‘I’m not falling, no way,’ and I had to go tippy-toe down the thing … that was a mistake. Because it didn’t look so good. I even agree.”
It could not be immediately determined whether that moment of self-reflection had any known precedent. In his final thoughts on the topic, Trump continued to defy expectations by allowing that embarrassing moments can, in fact, happen to anyone – even himself.
“You can’t fall,” Trump continued. “You just can’t fall. No matter what. You can’t allow it to happen. But I better not allow it – especially after saying this, I better not allow this to happen to me. But things like that do happen.”
Watch the video above.