On Thursday afternoon, Donald Trump stepped off a private jet emblazoned with his own name while wearing a hat boasting his own campaign slogan: “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.”
The once-and-future reality television star’s visit to Texas was a made-for-TV event even by campaign standards. The cameras were rolling—and the cable news channels broadcasting—as Trump stepped onto the tarmac in the border town of Laredo. Shortly after, the campaign drove a busload of reporters to a destination overlooking the U.S.-Mexico border, which provided his backdrop of choice for the short press conference that followed. There, Trump spent most of his time fielding questions from reporters about immigration and his desire to build a wall along the Mexican border—and much less time actually answering those questions in any detail.
Asked whether he’d seen evidence during his trip that Mexico is sending criminals across the border as he has repeatedly claimed, Trump didn’t waver. “Yes, I have,” he said roughly an hour after his plane had touched down and after he had spent nearly half that time traveling between the airport and his press conference. The Donald then added that he’d be offering evidence to support that claim soon—although he ignored several follow-ups about when that would actually happen. At another point, Trump was asked whether he’d like to apologize to those Hispanics who he insulted when he claimed that many Mexican immigrants who come to the United States illegally are rapists and murders. The current GOP frontrunner’s response: “They weren’t insulted. The press misinterpreted my words.”
Through it all, Trump maintained that he was visiting the border at great personal risk. “People are saying, ‘It’s so dangerous, Mr. Trump.’ But I have to do it, ” he said, one of several such comments he made during the two-and-half hours he spent in Texas. At no point, however, did Trump identify who it was that suggested the border was so dangerous, nor explain why he was unlikely to be protected by his personal security or the local police, which accompanied his massive motorcade on roads that were closed to the public. As the Washington Post pointed out Thursday, federal crime stats suggest Trump was much less likely to be killed during his visit to Laredo than if he would have stayed put in New York City.
Trump’s original plan included meeting with representatives from the local Border Patrol union, which had invited him to the Lone Star State to provide an up-close look at the Laredo section of the border. That meeting, though, was canceled by the union hours before it was scheduled to begin over concerns that it would be misconstrued as a political endorsement. The decision denied Trump the Border Patrol-themed photo-op he wanted, but, Trump being Trump, he didn’t let it go to waste. In a statement before he landed, his campaign said that the local agents were “being silenced” by their national union leaders. “It can only be assumed,” the campaign said, “that there are things the politicians in Washington do not want Americans to see or discuss.”
Elsewhere in Slate: The Case for Covering Trump: Why the media shouldn’t ignore his doomed campaign.