Trump Took Aim At An Unexpected Target During The First Democratic Debate

by Lilli Petersen
Joe Raedle/Getty Images News/Getty Images

I don't think anyone expected President Donald Trump to stay fully silent throughout the first Democratic debates for the 2020 presidential election. The president is known for both his willingness to go on the attack against his political opponents, and his affinity for Twitter (not to mention his love of combining the two). But let's be honest: Donald Trump's tweet during the first Democratic debate went after a target I did not expect. Namely, the networks'... technical work? This 2020 election cycle is getting weird already.

The first debate was split into two nights and run jointly by NBC News, MSNBC, and Telemundo. Shortly after 10 p.m. ET on the first night, June 26, the Democratic debate switched over its moderators, allowing Chuck Todd and Rachel Maddow to take over asking questions of the 10 candidates on stage. While the transition in questioning went smoothly, the transition in microphones —well, didn't. When Todd began his opening question to Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, the echo of the miscalibrated mics nearly drowned him out. Meanwhile, Warren's attempt at an answer was nearly inaudible. The network quickly cut to commercial while the technical teams fixed everything before coming back to business. It was a humanizing error for a group of politicians each seeking to put their best foot forward, and everyone on stage seemed to take it in good stride.

Trump, however, wasn't impressed. He tweeted out criticism of the networks' technical teams, writing,

@NBCNews and @MSNBC should be ashamed of themselves for having such a horrible technical breakdown in the middle of the debate. Truly unprofessional and only worthy of a FAKE NEWS Organization, which they are!

Trump also tweeted another message partway through the night, keeping to his personal brand. A little more than half an hour after the debate kicked off at 9 p.m. ET, the president tweeted out one word: "BORING!" in all caps. As MSNBC producer Kyle Griffin pointed out on Twitter, the message was also poorly timed — it came out shortly after a question from moderators about a migrant father and his young daughter who died on June 24 while reportedly attempting to seek asylum in the United States.

Regardless of content, the tweets themselves went against what Trump had promised. Earlier in the day, he had implied he would not be tweeting about the debates as he was on his way to the G20 summit in Japan, instead instructing his followers on social media to follow the accounts of his 2020 presidential campaign and its staffers. "Sorry, I’m on Air Force One, off to save the Free World!" he wrote.

Trump's choice of target is surprising mostly because he had so many of his favorite options. The president is not shy about coming after his political opponents, and has previously criticized Warren for her claims of Native American ancestry. (Warren has apologized to the Cherokee Nation for using and publicizing a DNA test in an attempt to confirm her ancestry.) The president has also called out Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, saying in February he had "no chance" of winning the White House in 2020. On the other hand, the president has often criticized the news media, repeatedly referring to "fake news" — often in reference to reports that are unfavorable to him.

Then again, when has politics ever been anything but drama? There's still one more night to go in these debates, when another 10 Democratic candidates take the stage, including perennial Trump opponent Vice President Joe Biden. What will he tweet then? Stay tuned, and let's all find out together.