Former President Donald Trump was so serious about his plan to burst out of the hospital wearing a Superman T-shirt during his bout with COVID that he sent an aide out to buy some shirts, according to New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman’s new book, Confidence Man.
Trump told associates he was inspired by the “Godfather of Soul,” James Brown, who would feign collapse during performances and be helped off stage covered in a cape, according to Haberman’s book. Brown would then pretend to dramatically recover and rush back to the microphone to finish the song.
“They need to see that I’m fully back, that I beat this,” Trump said, according to a copy of the book obtained by VICE News ahead of its official release on Tuesday.
Trump was a lot closer to dying than his White House admitted at the time, according to Confidence Man. Besides being seriously ill, he was taking a steroid known to cause mood swings as part of his COVID treatment.
Trump’s doctors warned him he might die, the former president told a close associate.
“They say I could be one of the diers,” Trump said, according to the book.
When Trump was released from the Walter Reed medical center, he wanted to make a dramatic appearance to reassure his followers that he had fully recovered.
“He came up with a plan he told associates was inspired by the singer James Brown, whom he loved watching toss off his cape while onstage, but it was in line with his love of professional wrestling as well: He would be wheeled out of Walter Reed in a chair and, once outdoors, he would dramatically stand up, then open his button-down dress shirt to reveal the Superman logo beneath it,” Haberman wrote. (Trump is a living member of the WWE Hall of Fame.)
The outline of Trump’s Superman scheme was first reported at the time of his illness. But Haberman adds the fresh detail that Trump was “so serious about it that he called the campaign headquarters to instruct an aide, Max Miller, to procure the Superman shirts; Miller was sent to a Virginia big-box store.”
The book also recounts Trump’s anger when then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows briefed reporters about the seriousness of Trump’s illness, contradicting the rosy official pronouncements that were put forward by Trump’s doctors.
When Trump learned of the early summary of Meadows’ remarks, which cited an unnamed “senior administration official,” Trump said: “Who the fuck said that?”
As a result, Trump decided he needed to be seen, and concocted a plan for the Secret Service to drive him past the crowd in front of the hospital inside an SUV, despite the fact that he might still have been contagious, Haberman wrote.