WASHINGTON, United States — President Donald Trump’s cryptic tweet of a non-existent word — “covfefe” — sparked a flood of humor and ridicule on the internet, but it also highlighted the inability of his communications team to control White House messaging.
It may have been a simple keyboard slip, or a “senior moment”; the soon to be 71-year-old Trump’s huge catalog of Twitter bloopers regularly offer evidence that a spelling-challenged speed-tweeter occupies the Oval Office.
It also shows that four months into his administration, the US president’s unfiltered use of the medium remains unchecked.
The consequence is deep turmoil in his communications staff: the White House is rife with rumors that the boss is preparing mass firings, and this week, communications director Mike Dubke resigned just four months into the job.
Silly or serious?
Trump’s tweets — complete with spelling errors, rants about “fake news” and even a mistweet at a British woman instead of his own daughter — often result in a collective sigh from both critics and backers, who wonder, “What next?”
That’s what happened after his nonsensical tweet in the early hours of Wednesday: “Despite the constant negative press covfefe.”
The word doesn’t exist in English, or apparently any human language. Mock interpretations said it was Russian for “I resign,” ancient Egyptian for “media witch hunt,” or more unprintable things.
The Regent’s English Language Center in London wrote: “We can confirm that ‘covfefe’ is not an English word. Yet.”
Newsweek declared it the “word of the year — or century.”
Trump — who declared during the election campaign last year that “I’m very highly educated. I know words; I have the best words” — even jumped into the fun.
After deleting the original tweet, he put out a new one: “Who can figure out the true meaning of ‘covfefe’ ??? Enjoy!”
Pressed later on the issue, White House spokesman Sean Spicer held tight to the “secret,” quipping: “The president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant.”
But coming amid reports Trump will pull the United States out of a global climate deal, the “covfefe” phenomenon illustrated how his Twitter habit can divert attention from his policy agenda.
His off-the-cuff tweets can have real impact, influencing relations with key allies like Germany, sending a major company’s stock plummeting, or riling Washington on issues like the FBI probe into Russian meddling in US politics.
Tweets ‘speak for themselves’
The White House team has repeatedly fallen prey to embarrassing errors — a list of global attacks released in February included “Denmakr” (Denmark) and “San Bernadino” (San Bernardino).
When British Prime Minister Theresa May visited Washington, the presidential and vice-presidential agenda both spoke about “Teresa,” and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was referred to as the president of his country.
For reporters as well as observers, these mistakes are symptomatic of the collective lack of experience and discipline in the White House.
Trump himself appears frustrated that he can’t get out the message he wants, privately and publicly expressing fury over a litany of bad headlines that he blames on his staff.
The communications team appears to have given up. Rather than try to spin Trump’s sometimes contradictory views, they have turned to just praising the president and repeating what he says.
In early May, Spicer — whose job is believed to be in the balance — began responding to journalists’ questions by saying things like “The tweet speaks for itself. I’m moving on.”
And rather than try to interpret Trump’s controversial remarks in Riyadh, Jerusalem, Brussels and Sicily last week, White House aides took to simply lauding his first trip abroad as “extraordinary” and “historic.”
“It shows how quickly and decisively the president is acting to strengthen alliances, to form new partnerships, and to rebuild America’s standing in the world,” Spicer said. CBB
US President Donald Trump is poised to pull the country out of the Paris climate accord, US media report, quoting senior officials.
The American leader refused to reaffirm his country's commitment to the accord at a G7 summit in Italy on Saturday.
He said he would make up his mind after returning to the US.
Mr Trump, who has called climate change a "hoax" on occasion, has reportedly indicated this is still his position to key members of his inner circle.
News that Mr Trump was moving towards quitting the agreement was reported by the Axios news website and ABC News.
In response, German government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying: "Like you I've seen the reports but I don't have any information beyond that.
"So I can only reiterate the well-known position that the German government unequivocally supports the Paris climate agreement and is campaigning for it to be quickly implemented and hopes the USA remains committed to this agreement."
Comedian Kathy Griffin apologized Tuesday, hours after posting a horrific and shocking photo of her posing with a bloody mask representing a beheaded President Trump.
After outrage poured in from both sides of the political aisle, Griffin admitted her unfunny stunt went too far.
“I sincerely apologize,” Griffin said in a video. “I am just now seeing the reaction of these images. I’m a comic. I crossed the line. I move the line, then I cross it. I went way too far. The image is too disturbing. I understand how it offends people. It wasn’t funny. I get it.”
Even Trump’s toughest critics were turned off by the offensive display, which features a stone-faced Griffin holding aloft the fake Trump head like a terrorist inspiring her twisted troops.
Earlier, Griffin cluelessly defended the display as nothing more than “art,” but the Secret Service took it seriously enough to weigh in.
“On it!” the agency tweeted. “@SecretService . . . monitors open source reporting & social media to evaluate threats. Threats made against @SecretService protectees receive the highest priority of all of our investigations.”
After posing for photographer Tyler Shields and posting the slow-motion video on her Twitter feed, Griffin followed it up with an insensitive social media screed.
“I caption this ‘There was blood coming out of his eyes, blood coming out of his. . . wherever,’” Griffin tweeted. “OBVIOUSLY, I do not condone ANY violence by my fans or others to anyone, ever! I’m merely mocking the Mocker in Chief.”
But the damage was already done, and the retribution was fierce.
2/ OBVIOUSLY, I do not condone ANY violence by my fans or others to anyone, ever! I'm merely mocking the Mocker in Chief.
“Disgusting but not surprising. This is the left today,” Trump’s son Donald Jr. tweeted. “They consider this acceptable. Imagine a conservative did this to Obama as POTUS.”
Griffin was trending on social media for much of the day, and her reviews were not good.
“What Kathy Griffin has done here is shocking and wrong,” wrote Evan Siegfried. “It’s behavior that should be condemned by all.”
Shields, who shot the shocking photo, also defended the image as “art.”
Shields said the photo was mostly Griffin’s idea.
“She came to me,” Shields said. “She said she’d like to do something political, that she’d love to do something that makes a statement. It’s always a collaboration. It wasn’t completely her, but it wasn’t completely me, either. Without Kathy, I would have never done a photo like that.”
Griffin’s controversial photo surfaced more than a year after comedian George Lopez tweeted a picture of a drawing depicting Trump’s detached head held up by Mexican drug lord Joaquin (El Chapo) Guzman. Musician Marilyn Manson, meanwhile, beheaded a character in a dark suit and red tie — both trademarks of Trump — in his music video for the song “SAY10” last November.
In March, Trump himself decried a Snoop Dogg video featuring the rapper aiming a gun at the head of a Trump look-alike.
“Can you imagine what the outcry would be if @SnoopDogg, failing career and all, had aimed and fired the gun at President Obama? Jail time!” Trump tweeted.
Griffin has been an outspoken critic of the President and includes bits about him and his family in her standup shows.
But the fallout began late Tuesday as toilet stool company Squatty Potty announced it was dumping Griffin from its latest ad campaign.
Griffin is well-known for appearing on CNN’s New Year’s coverage with Anderson Cooper.
“For the record, I am appalled by the photo shoot Kathy Griffin took part in. It is clearly disgusting and completely inappropriate,” Cooper tweeted.
But the white-haired host may be without a date this New Year’s Eve.
“We found what she did disgusting and offensive,” a CNN spokeswoman said. “We are evaluating New Year’s Eve and have made no decisions at this point.”