Donald Trump considered a dramatic stunt after leaving the hospital this week following a bout with coronavirus, with a report claiming the president discussed a plan in which he would dramatically rip open a dress shirt to reveal a Superman T-shirt underneath.
The New York Times reported on Saturday that the president raised the idea of a stunt to showcase his strength after battling the virus for days at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. The outlet added that Trump raised the idea during several phone calls while staying in the presidential suite at Walter Reed, telling advisers about his potential plan.
“When he left the hospital, he wanted to appear frail at first when people saw him, according to people with knowledge of the conversations,” the report noted. “But underneath his button-down dress shirt, he would wear a Superman T-shirt, which he would reveal as a symbol of strength when he ripped open the top layer.”
Trump ultimately did not go forward with the scheme, the newspaper added, but did make public remarks calling on people not to fear the virus and not let it dominate their lives. The remarks drew considerable pushback from those who believed that he was downplaying the severity of the pandemic, and being insensitive to those who have lost loved ones.
The report of the aborted plan to show off a Superman T-shirt has also drawn sharp criticism and some comparisons to the movie, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, in which Gene Wilder’s titular character performs a similar stunt upon the arrival of guests at his candy factory.
The comparison attracted viral interest, leading the term “Willy Wonka” to shoot to the top of Twitter’s trends in the U.S. late in the day on Saturday. As many noted, Wilder said he came up with the idea for the somersault by himself because it would destroy the audience’s trust in the eccentric candymaker.
“I knew that from that time on no one would know if I was lying or telling the truth,” Wilder explained back in 2016, via Business Insider.
Somebody watched OG Willy Wonka in the hospital… pic.twitter.com/0RraMjedGB
— Michael Torpey (@TorpeyMichael) October 10, 2020
Some of Trump’s critics seized on that explanation, saying that the president seems to have a similar untrustworthiness given his past statements on the coronavirus. Prior to his hospitalization, Trump was taking heat for the release of an interview with journalist Bob Woodward in which he said he intentionally downplayed the virus when speaking to the public.
The White House later explained that Trump said that because he did not want to cause panic.