- After being treated for COVID-19 at Walter Reed, Trump timed his arrival at the White House to maximize TV coverage.
- "It was like a Broadway production," Trump told ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl in March 2021.
- Trump thought about ripping off his dress shirt to reveal a Superman shirt underneath, but reconsidered.
Former President Donald Trump compared his dramatic return to the White House after being hospitalized at Walter Reed Medical Center with COVID-19 to a grand theatrical show.
"It was like a Broadway production," Trump told ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl in March 2021. Karl spoke to the former president for his forthcoming book, "Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show," a copy of which was obtained by Insider in advance of its Tuesday release.
According to the book, Trump carefully planned and timed his return from Walter Reed on October 2, 2020 - which Karl notes "may have been the most impressively choreographed event of his presidency" - to be as dramatic as possible.
Trump deliberately timed his departure from the hospital to occur at 6:30 p.m., ensuring that he would be landing at the South Lawn during primetime, as well as when the sunset was at its most striking. According to Karl, nearly 24 million Americans watch the three major broadcast networks at that time of day.
Trump opted to walk up the long staircase on the South side of the White House up to the Truman Balcony, even though he usually entered the building on the ground level and was beset by a novel respiratory disease. Karl also noted that Trump "rarely walks more than he absolutely needs to."
The former president reportedly thought about wearing a Superman shirt emblazoned with a giant "S" symbol beneath his dress shirt, which he would rip off upon reaching the balcony. That idea, however, was rejected. Instead, Trump stood on the balcony for about 2 minutes, apparently grimacing and struggling to breathe, while giving a thumbs-up and a salute. He was on dexamethasone, a powerful steroid, at that point.
Karl reports that it's still unclear when Trump first tested positive for COVID-19, largely due to the irregularity of testing in the his administration.
Even months after the end of the Trump administration, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows would not answer questions on the record about COVID-19 testing during that period of time, which was right after the first presidential debate in Cleveland.
Prior to contracting COVID-19 and being hospitalized, Trump spent much of 2020 downplaying the threat of the virus while spreading misinformation and scoffing at recommendations from top medical experts. Trump during a taped interview with veteran journalist Bob Woodward admitted to deliberately playing down the dangers of the virus, which killed over 400,000 Americans by the time he left office in January.
Dr. Deborah Birx, who served as the White House COVID-19 response coordinator under Trump, recently testified to House lawmakers that more than 130,000 lives could've been saved if Trump had listened to experts and followed science.