POLITICS & ELECTIONS

Trump joins TikTok and calls it ‘an honor.’ As president he once tried to ban the video-sharing app

Jun 3, 2024, 2:33 PM

Former U.S. President Donald Trump attends UFC 302 at Prudential Center on June 01, 2024 in Newark,...

Former U.S. President Donald Trump attends UFC 302 at Prudential Center on June 01, 2024 in Newark, New Jersey. (Luke Hales, Getty Images)

(Luke Hales, Getty Images)

Donald Trump has joined the popular video-sharing app TikTok, a platform he once tried to ban while in the White House, and posted from a UFC fight two days after he became the first former president and presumptive major party nominee in U.S. history to be found guilty on felony charges.

“It’s an honor,” Trump said in the TikTok video, which features footage of him waving to fans and posing for selfies at the Ultimate Fighting Championship fight in Newark, New Jersey, on Saturday night. The video ends with Trump telling the camera: “That was a good walk-on, right?”

By Sunday morning, Trump had amassed more than 1.1 million followers on the platform and the post had garnered more than 1 million likes and 24 million views.

“We will leave no front undefended and this represents the continued outreach to a younger audience consuming pro-Trump and anti-Biden content,” Trump spokesman Steven Cheung said in a statement about the campaign’s decision to join the platform.

“There’s no place better than a UFC event to launch President Trump’s Tik Tok, where he received a hero’s welcome and thousands of fans cheered him on,” he added.

Democratic President Joe Biden signed legislation in April that could ban TikTok in the U.S., even as his campaign joined in February and has tried to work with influencers.

Trump received an enthusiastic welcome at the fight at Newark’s Prudential Center, where the crowd broke into chants of “We love Trump!” and another insulting Biden with an expletive.

It was Trump’s first public outing since a jury in New York found him guilty Thursday on 34 charges of falsifying business records as part of a scheme to illegally influence the 2016 election by covering up hush money payments made to a porn actor who claimed she and Trump had sex. Trump has maintained he did nothing wrong and plans to appeal the verdict. He will be sentenced on July 11.

Throughout his campaign, Trump has used appearances at UFC fights to project an image of strength and to try to appeal to potential voters who may not closely follow politics or engage with traditional news sources. It’s also part of a broader effort to connect with young people and minority voters, particularly Latino and Black men.

TikTok, owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, is another opportunity to reach those potential voters. The platform has about 170 million users in the U.S., most of whom skew younger — a demographic that is especially hard for campaigns to reach because they shun television.

As president, Trump tried to ban TikTok through an executive order that said “the spread in the United States of mobile applications developed and owned” by Chinese companies was a national security threat. The courts blocked the action after TikTok sued.

Both the FBI and the Federal Communications Commission have warned that ByteDance could share user data such as browsing history, location and biometric identifiers with China’s government. TikTok said it has never done that and would not, if asked.

The platform was a hot topic of debate during the 2024 GOP primary campaign, with most candidates shunning its use. Many, including former Vice President Mike Pence, called for TikTok to be banned in the U.S. due to its connections with China

Trump said earlier this year that he still believes TikTok posed a national security risk, but was opposed to banning it because that would help its rival, Facebook, which he continues to criticize over his 2020 election loss to Biden.

“Frankly, there are a lot of people on TikTok that love it. There are a lot of young kids on TikTok who will go crazy without it,” Trump told CNBC.

The legislation signed by Biden gives ByteDance nine months to sell the company, with a possible additional three months if a sale is in progress. If it doesn’t, TikTok will be banned. Biden barred the app on most government devices in December 2022.

His reelection campaign nonetheless uses the app, which it joined the night of the Super Bowl in February. Aides argue that in an increasingly fragmented modern media environment, the campaign must get its message out to voters via as many platforms as possible, including TikTok as well as WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

Biden’s “bidenhq” account currently has more than 330,000 followers and 4.5 million likes.

Trump’s appearance at Saturday’s fight came after he had sat down for an interview with Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends Weekend” that aired Sunday.

In that appearance, Trump said he was “OK” with the prospect of potential jail time or house arrest, saying it was “the way it is.’’’

But he again suggested the public might not accept such a punishment for a former president now running to return to the White House.

“I don’t know that the public would stand it, you know. I’m not sure the public would stand for it,” he said. “I think it would be tough for the public to take. You know, at a certain point there’s a breaking point.”

Trump, as he has throughout the trial, maintained his innocence, saying he “did absolutely nothing wrong.”

He was asked how his wife, former first lady Melania Trump, has taken the news.

“She’s fine. But I think it’s very hard for her. I mean, she’s fine. But, you know, she has to read all this crap,” he said.

She did not appear with Trump in court at any point during his seven-week trial.


Editor’s note: Colvin reported from Annapolis, Maryland, Weissert from Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, and Kinnard from Chapin, South Carolina.

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Trump joins TikTok and calls it ‘an honor.’ As president he once tried to ban the video-sharing app