The writer and animator Alex Hirsch on Thursday flagged a quirk of television history with an odd connection to present-day politics: In 1958, CBS aired an episode of the series “Trackdown” called “The End of the World,” in which a confidence man named Trump attempts to sell a western town a “wall” — in the form of supposedly mystical parasols — to protect them from the fake threat of a meteor shower.
What the fresh hell. This is REAL. Filmed in 1958- about a conman who grifts a small town of suckers into building a wall. History not subtle enough for you? GUESS THE GRIFTER'S NAME
(And watch until the end) pic.twitter.com/6FA3p6KC00
— Alex Hirsch (@_AlexHirsch) January 9, 2019
Snopes did the fact-checking legwork: In the episode, “Dr. Walter Trump, DU MC SSR” — or “Doctor of the Universe, Master of Cometry, Student of Stellar Reactions” — whips a western town into a frenzy by tricking its residents into believing they’ll be wiped out by a meteor shower before the day is done.
As protection, he sells parasols with drawn-on mystical symbols, calling them a “wall” that can magically repel danger.
Eventually — despite Trump’s threat of a lawsuit — the show’s protagonist, Texas Ranger Hoby Gilman, reveals that Trump is a fraud who’s in cahoots with the town’s sheriff, and midnight passes without any meteor-related deaths. Trump ends up dead, shot by the sheriff in an attempt to cover up the scheme.
The episode is full of relevant dialogue: “I bet it fits,” Gilman says at one point of the name “Trump.” Elsewhere, a judge warns the ranger: “I live here, I know these people pretty well, and right now there’s nothing in the world that can change their minds [about Trump] — and anybody who tries to could end up getting hurt. They’re not going to listen.”
“Well, what if he starts a panic?” Gilman responds. “It could happen.”
“Well sure, but you might as well try to spit out a forest fire,” the judge says, adding: “It’s funny how a big lie can make us all kids again.”
Later, after the narrator refers to Trump as “the high priest of fraud,” the conman delivers some hauntingly prescient dialogue in a speech to the town.
“I am the only one! Just me! I can build a wall around your homes that nothing will penetrate,” Trump says.
“What do we do?” someone asks. “How do we save ourselves?”
“You ask: How do you build that wall?” Trump responds. “You ask, and I’m here to tell you.”
Gilman eventually interrupts: “You’re a liar, Trump!” Finally, as the scheme unfolds, fateful words from the ranger: “You’re under arrest, Trump.”
Snopes dug up a full version of the episode on YouTube. Watch it below: