A Blackout on The Phony “Union Members” At Trump’s Event?

Former US President and 2024 presidential hopeful Donald Trump arrives to speak at Drake Enterprises, an automotive parts manufacturer and supplier, in Clinton, Michigan, on September 27, 2023. Both Trump and Biden a... Former US President and 2024 presidential hopeful Donald Trump arrives to speak at Drake Enterprises, an automotive parts manufacturer and supplier, in Clinton, Michigan, on September 27, 2023. Both Trump and Biden are visiting Michigan this week, in what is their first major skirmish of a long fight for voters in working-class swing states ahead of the November 2024 election. Biden on September 26, 2023, became the first sitting president to stand on a picket line, supporting calls by the United Auto Workers (UAW) union for the Big Three Detroit carmakers to raise wages. And Trump is skipping a debate in California with his trailing Republican rivals on September 27 to head instead for a small, non-union car parts factory on the other side of Detroit. (Photo by Matthew Hatcher / AFP) (Photo by MATTHEW HATCHER/AFP via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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Let me ask you: what coverage have you seen of ex-President Trump’s event in Michigan Wednesday night? The speech was billed as a message to union autoworkers and comes amidst the on-going UAW strike. It was meant both to counter-program last night’s GOP presidential debate and also to contest President Biden’s relationship with unionized auto workers. Biden showed up to walk on a UAW picket line on Tuesday, making history as the first time a sitting president has ever so explicitly backed not just the right to bargain generally, but a specific strike.

A lot of coverage noted that Trump’s visit wasn’t really “at the strike,” as a number of reports had it, but at a non-union auto parts manufacturer, Drake Enterprises. What’s gotten much less attention is that a substantial number of the “auto workers” and “union members” in the audience appear to have been phonies produced by the Trump campaign. The Detroit News found at least one actual, self-identified auto worker in the crowd, 55 year old Doug King, who works for Stellantis. The paper also reported that a retired auto worker named Brian Pannebecker said he helped recruit people to come to the event. But the paper seemed to have a hard time finding real auto workers or union members in the crowd of between 400 and 500 people.

From The Detroit News

One individual in the crowd who held a sign that said “union members for Trump,” acknowledged that she wasn’t a union member when approached by a Detroit News reporter after the event. Another person with a sign that read “auto workers for Trump” said he wasn’t an auto worker when asked for an interview. Both people didn’t provide their names.

Anyone who knows how campaigns work knows that the sometimes “home made” signs held by attendees in the crowd are seldom made by the folks holding them. They’re described by the advance team for the campaign. That’s always the case when it’s professionally designed and produced campaign signs like the ones people were holding up here. That’s just two people. But the piece makes it sound like that’s most of what the reporter came up with.

The Detroit Free Press also found at least one actual union autoworker at the event, 50 year old Chris Vitale who works at Chrysler. Were there more? But aside from him it was apparently just the attendees lined up around risers surrounding Trump holding “Union Members for Trump” signs. Maybe some of them were the two phonies the Detroit News talked to?

Given the demographics of the UAW it shouldn’t be that hard to find enough actual autoworkers to show up for Trump at a small venue in Detroit. But it seems like a lot of the “union members” and “auto workers” there were phonies. While the Detroit News reported on it, the fact doesn’t seem to have seeped into any of the coverage from the big agenda setting outlets like Axios, Politico, the Post or the Times. Weird! Curious whether it would be different if the shoe were on the other foot. Have you seen more coverage of the phonies at Trump’s Drake Enterprises event? If so, drop me a line.

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