• Trump timed his White House return after COVID-19 treatment to maximize TV coverage, a book says.
  • “It was like a Broadway production,” Trump told the ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl in March.
  • He thought about ripping off his dress shirt to reveal a Superman shirt but reconsidered, the book said.

Former President Donald Trump compared his dramatic return to the White House after being hospitalized with COVID-19 at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to a grand theatrical show.

“It was like a Broadway production,” Trump told the ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl in March. Karl spoke with the former president for his book “Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show,” a copy of which Insider obtained in advance of its release on Tuesday.

According to the book, Trump planned and timed his return from Walter Reed in October 2020 — which Karl said “may have been the most impressively choreographed event of his presidency” — to be as dramatic as possible.

Trump timed his departure from the hospital for 6:30 p.m., ensuring that he would land on the South Lawn during primetime and when the sunset was most striking, the book said. According to Karl, nearly 24 million Americans watch the three major broadcast networks at that time of day.

Trump opted to walk up the long staircase on the south side of the White House to the Truman Balcony, even though he usually entered the building on the ground level and had a novel respiratory disease, Karl said, adding that Trump “rarely walks more than he absolutely needs to.”

Trump reportedly thought about wearing a Superman shirt with a giant S beneath his dress shirt, which he would rip off upon reaching the balcony, but that idea was rejected, the book said. Instead, Trump stood on the balcony for about two minutes, appearing to grimace and struggle to breathe while giving a thumbs-up and a salute. He was on dexamethasone, a powerful steroid, at that point.

Karl reported that it was still unclear when Trump first tested positive for COVID-19, largely because of the irregularity of testing in the administration. Even months after the end of the Trump administration, Mark Meadows, who was the White House chief of staff, would not answer questions on the record about COVID-19 testing during that period, right after the first presidential debate.

Before contracting COVID-19 and being hospitalized, Trump spent much of 2020 downplaying the threat of the virus while spreading misinformation and scoffing at recommendations from top medical experts. During a taped interview with the veteran journalist Bob Woodward, Trump admitted to deliberately playing down the dangers of the virus, which had killed over 400,000 Americans by the time he left office in January.

Dr. Deborah Birx, who served as the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator under Trump, recently testified to House lawmakers that more than 130,000 lives could’ve been saved if Trump had listened to experts and followed the science.


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