One piece of recurring commentary about Donald Trump is that he sometimes expresses admiration of and takes inspiration from some of the most unsavory heads of state out there. Now, Trump's got a new figure to emulate — on Monday, the Thai Prime Minister brought a cardboard cutout of himself to answer questions from reporters, rather than answering the questions himself.
Trump has previously praised autocratic leaders, like Vladimir Putin or Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, for their leadership qualities. After Thai PM Prayuth Chan-ocha displayed his new journalist-evading technique, many are wondering if Trump might try it out.
After all, Trump also has a famously hostile relationship with what he often calls the "Fake News Media." He doesn't give press conferences very often, and he's frequently refused to answer questions that reporters pose. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders often has to respond to the most explosive comments that Trump makes on Twitter and elsewhere, with the president himself sometimes avoiding direct scrutiny completely. While no one has actually deployed a cardboard cutout of the president in front of the White House press corps, Twitter thinks it's not out of the realm of possibility.
Before the cardboard cutout stunt, the Thai PM started the press conference like any other run-in with his scrum of reporters. He began by answering the questions asked of him, and then he declared that he didn't like the direction they were going. Prior planning had clearly gone into it, though, because he then directed one of his aides to bring out the life-size cutout of himself, with his hand proffered as if for a handshake.
"If anyone wants to ask any questions on politics or conflict, ask this guy," he instructed the reporters, before flashing a peace sign and then walking away.
The doomed press meet-up happened at an event promoting the National Children's Day holiday; officials claimed that several cardboard cutouts of the prime minister had been produced for National Children's Day, which was ostensibly meant as an explanation of this particular one.
Prayuth, a former general who took control of Thailand in a military coup in 2014, met with Trump in the White House in October. The Obama administration had maintained minimal relations with Prayuth's government, as they perceived it to be lacking a focus on democracy and human rights. Trump, on the other hand, invited Prayuth to the White House in the first year of his presidency.
Now, more than a few people on Twitter have pointed out that Prayuth's media stunt could bring the two even closer together, at least in their habits.
Maybe Trump Inspired This?
Some on Twitter have speculated that rather than acting as an inspiration for Trump, Prayuth is actually just taking a leaf out of Trump's book — and then moving things a step forward.
This Is Far Beyond Spicer
No one can forget the moment that former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer literally backed into the bushes so that he wouldn't have to answer questions about the firing of former FBI director James Comey. In that case, Spicer didn't actually get away, and he eventually did have to face the gathered reporters. Prayuth, on the other hand, was able to use the element of shock in order to escape entirely.
The Beginning Of A Beautiful Relationship?
Prayuth has now signaled that he and Trump share the same feeling on the press; perhaps this could spark an even closer relationship between the two men.
A Bit Too Familiar
Again, Trump has not actually done this yet, but Twitter agrees that it wouldn't be entirely surprising if it did happen.
Keep Your Eyes Peeled
Considering that Trump rarely addresses the White House press corps himself, perhaps a cardboard cutout of him would even be an improvement.
Trump already seems entrenched in his anti-media bias, and he's already done several notably unorthodox things in his treatment of it — like when he retweeted anti-CNN memes, or when he announced that there would be a Fake News awards show. Normally, Prayuth's move with the cardboard cutout might have been unimaginable — but now, Twitter agrees that it's far from it.