The noble art of sarcasm: Trump replaces coronavirus briefing with tweets

By Rishika Dugyala

The day of his wife’s birthday, President Donald Trump decided to forgo a coronavirus briefing — but he didn’t log out of his Twitter account.

Sunday was the second straight day Trump had not participated in a White House coronavirus briefing — the task force held a meeting Saturday but no briefing — amid speculation that his extended appearances in those daily events were taking a toll on his approval ratings. The president has clashed with members of the press during those briefings, and, as he had Saturday, he offered stinging rebukes via Twitter of the media for its coverage of the current crisis and his presidency.

Trump started off his Sunday with warm wishes: “Happy Birthday to Melania, our great First Lady!”

Three hours later, he began sending tweet after tweet deriding reporters for not accurately portraying him as a leader who’s “gotten more done in the first 3 1/2 years than any President in history.” He name-dropped his usual targets, like CNN, “MSDNC” and The New York Times.

“I read a phony story in the failing @nytimes about my work schedule and eating habits, written by a third rate reporter who knows nothing about me,” he wrote. “I will often be in the Oval Office late into the night & read & see that I am angrily eating a hamburger & Diet Coke in my bedroom.”

“People with me are always stunned,” he tweeted about his work habits. The article he was referring to may have been Thursday’s New York Times article by Annie Karni and Katie Rogers that began: “President Trump arrives in the Oval Office these days as late as noon, when he is usually in a sour mood after his morning marathon of television.“

Then Trump pivoted to another topic: Awards.

Pulitzer Prizes have been used to reward journalistic excellence and impact since 1917. On Sunday, in a thread that has since been deleted, Trump seemed to confuse those awards with Nobel Prizes — which he also misspelled on each reference.

“When will all of the ‘reporters’ who have received Noble Prizes for their work on Russia, Russia, Russia, only to have been proven totally wrong (and, in fact, it was the other side who committed the crimes), be turning back their cherished ‘Nobles’ so that they can be given to the REAL REPORTERS & JOURNALISTS who got it right,” he wrote.

Trump added, “Lawsuits should be brought against all, including the Fake news Organizations, to rectify this terrible injustice. For all of the great lawyers out there, do we have any takers? When will the Noble Committee Act? Better be fast!”

"Nobel," "Noble," "Noble Prize" and "Pulitzer" were all soon trending on Twitter.

After taking down his original tweets, the president played off the mix-up as sarcasm: "Does anybody get the meaning of what a so-called Noble (not Nobel) Prize is, especially as it pertains to Reporters and Journalists? Noble is defined as, 'having or showing fine personal qualities or high moral principles and ideals.' Does sarcasm ever work?"

Trump has used sarcasm as a defense before. Last week, after an immediate backlash from medical professionals and cleaning product manufacturers over his suggestion Thursday of ingesting disinfectants to fight coronavirus, Trump said he was asking a sarcastic question, "just to see what would happen."

"I was asking a sarcastic — and a very sarcastic question — to the reporters in the room about disinfectant on the inside," he said at an Oval Office bill signing Friday. "But it does kill it, and it would kill it on the hands and that would make things much better."

Trump even attacked Fox News for airing Democratic talking points, trying to become politically correct and putting "RINO Paul Ryan" on the board: “No respect for the people running @FoxNews.” He also singled out “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace and former Democratic Party official Donna Brazile, who now offers commentary for Fox. But during a subsequent retweeting spree, he did make use of some of his Fox favorites, including Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham.

On Sunday evening, the president also dismissed reports that White House officials are weighing a plan to replace Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who has been blamed for fumbling the handling of the coronavirus crisis and the roll out of testing.

“Reports that H.H.S. Secretary @AlexAzar is going to be ‘fired’ by me are Fake News,” Trump tweeted. “The Lamestream Media knows this, but they are desperate to create the perception of chaos & havoc in the minds of the public. They never even called to ask.”

Azar quickly retweeted Trump’s denial and issued his own: “The media continues to smear @POTUS and his Administration’s fight against #COVID19 and grossly overlook the historic whole-of-government response that we’ve been delivering under the President’s leadership.”