Donald Trump, who called himself “the greatest jobs president that God ever created,” apparently started hiring early.
Mr. Trump – the real estate mogul who launched his bid to occupy the White House in 2016 – paid actors $50 each to beef up attendance at his campaign announcement Tuesday, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
According to reports, Trump's team sent an e-mail to a casting agency asking for performers "to wear T-shirts and carry signs and help cheer him in support of his announcement."
For the record, a Trump campaign manager has denied these reports, telling The Hollywood Reporter, “Mr. Trump draws record crowds at almost every venue at which he is a featured speaker. The crowds are large, often record-setting and enthusiastic, often with standing ovations."
But The Hollywood Reporter has obtained the e-mail and another source has identified paid background actors in Instagram photos from Trump's announcement.
Like the zany Mark Sanford Appalachian Trail/Argentinian Affair of 2009 and the Great Rod Blagojevich Senate Seat Auction of 2008, we can't make this stuff up.
The unraveling of the Great Trumpian Hiring Campaign began when Media Matters for America VP and anti-Trump activist Angelo Carusone noticed something strange at Trump's pumped up event.
"Something just felt off about it to me. But, I couldn’t quite place it. Was it the staging? The crowd?" he wrote on the site Medium. "My initial thought was, ‘I bet Trump is paying some of those people to be there.’
Carusone noticed a photo on Instagram of a Trump supporter who also happened to be a paid actor he had seen in other social media posts, Domenico Del Giacco. The girl next to Del Giacco? Also a paid actress, Courtney Kloz.
The Hollywood Reporter investigated and obtained an e-mail sent by the New York-based Extra Mile Casting agency, calling on performers to join the campaign launch.
“We are looking to cast people for the event to wear T-shirts and carry signs and help cheer him in support of his announcement,” the June 12 e-mail said. “We understand this is not a traditional ‘background job,’ but we believe acting comes in all forms and that is inclusive of this school of thought."
Trump's approach, while not traditional, is not, in fact, new.
As The Hollywood Reporter explained, "In politics, "astroturfing" is when people are hired to attend a rally or event in order to lend the appearance of grassroots support. They are typically contracted out to political consulting firms, much like Gotham GR."
If Trump was practicing "astroturfing," it's certainly not illegal but it does convey a lack of authenticity – and reinforces the idea of politics as theater. Or in Trump's case, part carefully orchestrated event and part improv.
"The announcement was an event unlike any the GOP has seen, The Christian Science Monitor reported, via Politico: "a full-on production, complete with gossip reporters, a Broadway soundtrack, and people waving signs that read, “Donald, we need YOU!!!”"