The Trump Show: GOP Convention Leans Into Reality TV Moments

CHARLOTTE, NC - AUGUST 25: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) In this screenshot from the RNC’s livestream of the 2020 Republican National Convention, U.S. President Donald Trump hosts a naturalization ceremony for new citizens ... CHARLOTTE, NC - AUGUST 25: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) In this screenshot from the RNC’s livestream of the 2020 Republican National Convention, U.S. President Donald Trump hosts a naturalization ceremony for new citizens in a pre-recorded video broadcasted during the virtual convention on August 25, 2020. The convention is being held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic but will include speeches from various locations including Charlotte, North Carolina and Washington, DC. (Photo Courtesy of the Committee on Arrangements for the 2020 Republican National Committee via Getty Images) MORE LESS
August 25, 2020 11:56 p.m.

The second night of the Republican National Convention offered yet another episode of the Trump Show, full of made-for-tv moments.

From a surprise pardoning at the White House to a naturalization ceremony inside the White House to first lady Melania Trump’s speech in the newly renovated Rose Garden, the work of two former producers for “The Apprentice” injected a dose of reality TV to the proceedings.

Here’s how reality TV-style moments played out throughout the episode two of the RNC:

Live pardoning of RNC speaker

Trump surprised Jon Ponder, who was convicted of robbing a bank in Nevada and now runs a nonprofit for prisoners, with a pardon during a seven-minute video.

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The President called Ponder’s life “a beautiful testament to the power of redemption” and praised him for his commitment to Christianity — a move that appears as an attempt to draw attention to the Trump administration’s criminal justice initiatives, even as the RNC’s programming has bolstered Trump’s assertion that he’s the president of “law and order.”

“We believe that each person is made by God for a purpose,” Trump said. “I will continue to give all Americans, including former inmates, the best chance to build a new life and achieve their own American dream, and a great American dream it is.”

Trump awkwardly stood between Ponder and the former FBI agent who arrested the man as he announced the news.

Surprise naturalization ceremony at the White House

In another surprise of the night, Trump hosted a naturalization ceremony at the White House alongside Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf. Trump announced earlier Tuesday that he was tapping Wolf for the official position.

It’s ironic that Trump appeared to pivot to pro-immigration messaging (at least during the RNC) given that the hallmark of his first campaign — and presidency — has been a hardline anti-immigration platform.

Just to name a few examples: Trump and his administration continuing to push for a border wall to keep immigrants out of the U.S., enacting the family separation policy and the Muslim ban.


First lady Melania Trump

Night two of the RNC was capped off with a speech by the first lady aired from the newly renovated Rose Garden. After a glossy video introduced the first lady, the cameras followed Melania Trump’s long walk to the podium.

Appearing in front of a crowd of about 50 people, which included President Trump, the first lady’s speech took on an Oscars-esque tone as she received applause for saying that she “studied for the test in 2006” and became an American citizen “after 10 years of paperwork and patience.”

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