The 2016 election cycle — most notably, the presidential campaign of outspoken real estate mogul Donald Trump — has been a boon for professional and amateur fact checkers alike. On more than one occasion, the blustery billionaire’s off-the-cuff assertions have failed to stand up to counter points and media scrutiny, but Trump is not one to back down, even when his claims are refuted by experts, witnesses, and even the very subjects of his claims.
Such is the case in a recent flap involving legendary baseball player Pete Rose, who, according to Donald Trump, is firmly behind the aspiring chief executive in his quest for the presidency. On Sunday, Trump posted a tweet proclaiming that he had “just received” a signed baseball from Rose in which the former player and manager expressed his support for The Donald. In addition to Rose’s autograph, the ball featured a personalized inscription urging Trump to “make America great again.”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 14, 2016
The timing of Trump’s tweet was especially handy given that Pete Rose is something of a folk hero in Ohio, having spent the most celebrated years of his career with the Cincinnati Reds. Donald Trump’s post on Twitter came just days before the Ohio primary, which will cap a close race with that state’s governor, John Kasich.
According to the Washington Post, Donald Trump invoked Pete Rose’s name at a rally the same day, telling an audience in West Chester, Ohio, that Pete Rose should be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Rose was banned from Major League Baseball in 1989 as a consequence of illegal gambling. Many fans believe Rose should be inducted into the Hall regardless, particularly in light of the fact that he broke Ty Cobb’s record for base hits back in 1986.
But a representative for baseball’s famed “Hit King” is now making an effort to put some distance between his client and Donald Trump. In a public statement, Rose’s attorney, Ray Genco, denied that the baseball displayed by Trump amounts to a formal show of support for the candidate.
“Pete has made a point not to ‘endorse’ any particular presidential candidate,” Genco said, according to NBC News. “Though he respects everyone who works hard for our country — any outlet that misinterpreted a signed baseball for an endorsement was wrong. Pete did not send any candidate a baseball or a note of endorsement.”
Thus far, Donald Trump’s campaign has not addressed the apparent contradiction raised by Genco’s response that Rose “did not send” the ball. Instead, reps have focused on the finer point that any formal “endorsement” ever took place, implying that the story was distorted by the media.
As for the message on the ball itself, some have pointed out that Pete Rose has a history of scribbling colorful and entertaining inscriptions on baseballs. On social media, people have posted photos of balls signed by Rose with comments like “I shot JFK” and “I was the first man on the moon.”
— Phil Braun (@playazball) March 14, 2016
Ohio governor John Kasich is apparently nonplussed by the possibility – or lack thereof – of an endorsement by one of Ohio’s most famous athletes. Over the weekend, Kasich laughed at the whole situation during an interview, suggesting that his wife, who is apparently a huge fan of Rose, would be disappointed if Trump got the nod from her favorite ballplayer. Tuesday morning, Kasich sidestepped any talk of his own campaign securing an endorsement from Pete Rose during an interview televised by CNN.
With or without support from Pete Rose, John Kasich has the best chance of defeating Donald Trump in Ohio, as polls prior to “Super Tuesday 3” voting show the two candidates in a virtual tie, with the other two Republicans trailing significantly.
[Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images]