President Trump blasts Fox News, Joe Biden and 'artificial lights' at Pennsylvania rally

John Fritze

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump went after Fox News and blasted several Democratic candidates angling to unseat him during a steamy Pennsylvania rally intended to energize his base in a state that will be key to his chances in 2020.

Speaking at his fifth rally of the year, Trump mostly stuck to script, focusing on the economy. But his remarks were also notable for what they didn't include: Much discussion of Iran, the latest efforts by House Democrats or new layoffs at Ford.

Here are five takeaways from the president's Monday rally in Montoursville, Pennsylvania:

Economy, stupid

Trump was more focused than usual on the nation's economy, a talking point his advisers would like him to always hammer home.

The president noted the nation's low unemployment, repeatedly came back to steel manufacturing in Pennsylvania and elsewhere and hit on trade.

Those issues are always included in his rallies, but Trump raised them in Pennsylvania without the usual deviations – perhaps underscoring the importance the issue will have with voters in one of the nation's most important swing states. Trump won Pennsylvania in 2016 by less than 1 percentage point.  

President Donald Trump speaks during a 'Make America Great Again' campaign rally at Williamsport Regional Airport, May 20, 2019 in Montoursville, Pennsylvania.

Biden on the brain

Trump mentioned other Democratic candidates, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, but he saved the bulk of his 2020 ire for former Vice President Joe Biden, who had held a rally in the state on Saturday.

More: Trump to Pennsylvania voters: 'Biden deserted you'

The president even broke from his usual line-for-line closing-remarks to tell his supporters that Biden had "deserted you." Biden was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, before moving with his family to Delaware. It's not clear how much say he had in the move. He was 10 years old at the time. 

Iran? North Korea?

Listening for what Trump doesn't talk about can sometimes be just as interesting as what he does touch on. The president has walked a line between taking a hard position on Iran, threatening on Monday to "end" the country, to signaling he would be willing to talk with that country's leaders. Beyond mentioning the nuclear agreement he pulled the U.S. out of last year, he barely discussed Iran. Another issue that has fallen out of Trump's stump speech: North Korea, where leader Kim Jong Un has resumed short-range missile testing

President Donald Trump, right, brings Blake Marnell on stage during a campaign rally in Montoursville, Pa., Monday, May 20, 2019.

Miffed at Fox 

Trump has given more interviews to – and heaps more praise on – Fox News than any other media outlet. But he appeared to ratchet up his criticism of the network on Monday, questioning why it was airing town halls with Democratic presidential candidates seeking to oust him from the Oval Office.

"What’s going on with Fox, by the way? They’re putting more Democrats on than they are Republicans...Somebody’s going to have to explain the whole Fox thing to me," the president said. Trump may have answered his own question in the next breath, admitting he was tuning in for the town halls to "watch the competition, if you call it that." 

Artificial lights  

With a background in show business, Trump is not shy about weighing in on the production elements of his events. But he's had a run of bad luck lately. At a Florida rally this month Trump repeatedly complained about a slippery stage, at one point joking that it was "like an ice rink" and suggesting that "the Democrats must have put it in."

In Pennsylvania, Trump took issue with the lights, questioning why "artificial lights" were needed while the sun was still up. "Is there any way they can turn those lights down, folks?" Trump asked, shading his eyes with a hand. The lights made it that much easier to spot the already bright sports coat worn by a Trump supporter that the president called up on stage during the rally. The jacket's pattern was made to look like a brick wall

More: Trump invites man wearing border wall suit to stage

"Look at this guy,'" Trump said as the crowd chanted for the president's proposed border wall. "We know who he's voting for." 

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: President Trump blasts Fox News, Joe Biden and 'artificial lights' at Pennsylvania rally