Reprinted with permission from American Independent
This year, Donald Trump botched a federal response to a global pandemic, antagonized peaceful protesters of police brutality, rammed through a questionable Supreme Court pick, and attempted to steal an election.
But he's also fumbled his way through some unforgettable moments, making bizarre statements to the public that have left listeners scratching their heads.
Though it's far from the first year in office that Trump's verbal gaffes have made waves, it's certainly been among the most memorable.
Here are just a few of the more baffling statements the White House occupant made in 2020.
1. When he claimed Austrians live in forests
Discussing wildfires happening across California in early September, Trump told Fox News that Austrians were better equipped to handle such fires because they lived in forests.
"You have forests all over the world," he said. "You don't have fires like you do in California. You know, in Europe they have forest cities ... you look at countries, Austria, you look at so many countries, they live in the forest, they're considered forest cities."
Elisabeth Koestinger, Austria's agriculture secretary, felt the need to respond to Trump's bizarre remarks.
Specifically, she tried to debunk Trump's claims that "we live within 'forest cities' which never catch fire."
"...[T]he gravity of current events make Trump's words much more worrying — after all, right at this moment, thousands of people are fighting horrendous wildfires in life-or-death situations," Koestinger said. "In reality, Austria is a country situated in the heart of Europe, where people do not live in the forest, but rather with the forest and in a close, sustainable relationship with the natural environment."
2. When he wondered aloud about 'exploding' trees
Once again in September, while discussing the California wildfires, Trump wondered aloud to the press about the possibility of trees just "exploding."
"When trees fall down, after a short period of time, about 18 months, they become very dry, they become really like a matchstick and they get up — you know, there's no more water pouring through and they become very very — they just explode," he said.
Experts were quick to fact-check his claim.
Retired fire scientist Richard Rothermel noted that if Trump meant foliage could "suddenly burst into flames due to a massive amount of heat engulfing the tree," that was possible.
But, he added, "For the trunk to become super heated sufficiently to cause the moisture in the tree to suddenly become steam with resulting expansion which would shatter the tree ... In my years at the fire laboratory I never heard anyone report seeing this or finding evidence of it."
3. When he insisted he was just 'inspecting' his White House bunker
Following media reports in June that he'd hid in the underground White House bunker while police cracked down on anti-racism protesters nearby, Trump later claimed he had merely been "inspecting" it.
"They said it would be a good time to go down, take a look, because maybe sometime you're going to need it," he said at the time.
Complaining of "fake news," Trump added that he "looked" at the space for "a very, very short period of time."
"I can't tell you who went with me, but a whole group of people went with me, as an inspecting factor, I was back up, and ... it was during the day, it wasn't during the night," he said, slamming the media for reporting that the so-called "inspection" had happened at in the evening hours.
4. When he referred to Thailand as 'thigh-land'
Speaking at a Whirlpool factory in Ohio this past August, Trump mispronounced the name of Thailand as "thigh-land."
"Five years ago, this place was a disaster," he said in his remarks. "In 2017, Whirlpool won relief from the [U.S. International Trade Commission] once again, once more. Your foreign competitors moved their factories to prevent the level playing field and to avoid liability, shifting production to thigh-land and Vietnam," he said.
Trump quickly corrected himself, repeating "Thailand and Vietnam."
Those in Thailand, however, took the gaffe in stride, with English-language outlet the Thai Enquirer briefly changing its Twitter name to the "Thigh Enquirer".
5. When he suggested Americans inject bleach to cure coronavirus
In April, a White House official explained in a press conference that lights and certain disinfectants like bleach could potentially kill coronavirus living on surfaces.
Eager to put in his two cents, Trump suggested those treatments might be taken internally.
"So supposing we hit the body with a tremendous, whether it's ultraviolet or just very powerful light, and I think you said that hasn't been checked, but you're going to test it, and then I said supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do, either through the skin or in some other way, and I think you said you're going to test that, too," he said.
He added that injecting disinfectant might also be a good way to combat the virus.
"I see the disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute, one minute, and is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning?" Trump asked. "Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does at tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that. So that you're gonna have to use medical doctors with, but it sounds interesting to me."
Medical experts were swift to condemn Trump's remarks as dangerous, and Lysol and another disinfectant company issued a joint statement warning that "under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body."
6. When he wished an accused sex trafficker well
In a cringeworthy statement heard round the world, Trump sent his best wishes to Jeffrey Epstein's longtime companion, accused sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell.
"I just wish her well, frankly," he told a reporter in July. "I've met her numerous times over the years, especially since I lived in Palm Beach and I guess they lived in Palm Beach, but I wish her well, whatever it is."
The FBI had recently arrested and charged Maxwell with sex trafficking of children, enticement of minors, and perjury at that time.
7. When he wondered why he couldn't force TikTok to pay off the government
Trump seemed gobsmacked in a September press conference to discover he — or, rather, the U.S. government — couldn't collect a bounty from Microsoft's acquisition of Chinese-owned app TikTok.
Trump had previously stated that any sale of the app to a U.S. entity should require the company to give the Treasury a "very big" payment as part of the deal.
Under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, governments are legally barred from making such payments to other governments in the private marketplace.
Asked if TikTok would indeed make payments to the U.S. Treasury in September, Trump told reporters, "We're going to see about that."
"Amazingly, I find that you're not allowed to do that, you're not allowed to accept money, so what kind of a government, what kind of thing is this, if they're willing to make big payments to the government, they're not allowed, because there's no way of doing that, there's no legal path to doing that," Trump said.
He continued, "And I'm saying wait a minute, they're willing to make a big payment to the government and we're not allowed to take their money? When does this happen? How foolish can we be, so we're gonna, we're looking into that right now."
8. When he claimed (falsely) that the biggest election threat was 'ballots'
In a September press conference, Trump ignored the raging pandemic around him to claim that the biggest threat to the November election was "ballots" — specifically mail ballots intended to keep voters safe amid the pandemic.
"The biggest problem we have right now are the ballots," he said in a press conference that month. "Millions of ballots going out, that's the biggest problem."
"Our biggest threat to this election is governors from opposing parties controlling ballots, millions of ballots," he added. "To me that's a much bigger threat than foreign countries."
He then falsely claimed allegations of foreign interference in the 2016 election had been disproven, despite intelligence community consensus, and his own party's confirmation, that Russia did in fact meddle in and affect that election.
Trump's repeated claims of widespread ballot fraud have been thoroughly debunked, and even his own outgoing Attorney General William Barr has smacked down allegations that there was mass election fraud that somehow turned the tide for President-elect Joe Biden.
9. When he decided to spell out 'COVID'
In a public statement on April 2 announcing that he would be authorizing the domestic manufacture of more ventilators under the Defense Production Act, Trump bragged that COVID-19 had become a "very famous" term.
He decided to spelled it out, however, rather than calling it by its name. By that point, the media had been reporting on the outbreak, which had been declared a pandemic weeks earlier, for several months.
"C-O-V-I-D 19," Trump said, referring to the disease caused by the coronavirus. "You know what that is, it's become a very famous term. C-O-V-I-D. COVID."
By that time, there had already been 3,900 COVID-related deaths in the United States, according to CBS.
10. When he claimed he worked as hard as factory workers
Despite his legendary Twitter habit and Fox News addiction, Trump told factory workers responsible for manufacturing personal protective equipment during the pandemic that he worked as hard as they did.
"The workers at this facility have answered the call at America's hour of need," he told them in May. "Many of you are working long before dawn, get up and you go to work, and long after midnight. I know your hours, I was talking to your people and your representatives ... but I work those hours too, we're all working hard."
In May, the Washington Post estimated that Trump had spent anywhere between 9 and 63 full days on Twitter during his time in office, if all the hours were stacked together. In that time, he has also posted more than 22,000 false or misleading tweets, many of which are easily debunked.
11. When he pronounced 'Yosemite' as 'Yo Semite'
At an August event at the White House to sign a bipartisan conservation bill, Trump infamouslymispronounced the name of Yosemite National Park — twice.
"When young people experience the breathtaking beauty of the Grand Canyon, when their eyes widen in amazement as Old Faithful bursts into the sky, when they gaze upon 'Yo Semite'... Yoseminite's towering sequoias, their love of country grows stronger and they know that every American has truly a duty to preserve this wondrous inheritance," Trump said.
Twitter was quick to call him out on his error.
12. When he said he designed Navy ships to look like 'a yacht with missiles'
In June, Trump inexplicably claimed in a visit to a Wisconsin shipbuilding facility that he designed a new fleet of warships for the U.S. Navy.
"The ships that they were building, they look terrible. I changed designs, I looked at it, I said, 'That's a terrible looking ship, let's make it beautiful, it'll cost you the same and maybe less,'" Trump said. "You know, sometimes you can make it look great for less money. And I said, 'This is not a good looking ship, let's change the design of it.'"
He said that he called in a team who then changed the ship's design.
"They gave me a beautiful — it's like a yacht with missiles on it," Trump added.
13. Any time he tried to dance to 'YMCA' at a campaign rally
Trump seems to be a fan of the Village People hit "YMCA," one of the tunes often played at his 2020 campaign rallies, as evidenced by his now-famous dance moves, which went viral this year.
Those moves even sparked a popular TikTok challenge, with users uploading side-by-side videos of themselves attempting to learn or imitate Trump's dance, which "starts with the arms, clenched fists pumping back and forth — sometimes to the beat — as though he's on an elliptical trainer," as the Associated Press described it.
"The hardest dance to learn," one user joked.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.