Jul 22, 2018

The halftime speech that missed its mark

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

A Trump campaign tale that never made it into the papers... Jason Miller was excited. The legendary college basketball coach Bobby Knight was visiting Trump Tower and the campaign's senior communications adviser thought it would be a great opportunity to get Knight in front of the beleaguered Trump team for one of Knight's inspirational halftime talks.

Behind the scenes: About 30 Trump communications staff and volunteers were gathered in the war room. Cable news blared on eight TVs that never switched off. Miller came out of his office to give the team a rare "ra ra speech," a "let's go get 'em speech... let's fight hard today and here's what we're pushing," according to two sources who were in the room for the occasion.

"Jason says, 'We've got Coach Knight here, the legendary Coach Knight. Coach, why don't you say a few words to the team here'," one of the sources recalled.

"Sure, sure. Happy to, Jason," Knight replied, in the recollection of the source. "You know, I love Donald Trump. He's a great man. He's gonna be a great president. I'm confident that he's gonna win.

  • "But really the one thing, the one thing I just can't understand is... Well, he's just got to stop talking about this f---ing wall."

Knight kept going, attacking the centerpiece of the Trump campaign, as Miller stood by agog and staff tried to suppress their laughter.

"I go everywhere," Knight said, "all over the country. And people tell me 'Donald Trump is awesome but I don't understand the wall.'"

  • "I'm telling you," Knight continued, "people don't understand the wall and you've got to stop talking about the wall. Trump's gonna win. But you've got to stop talking about the wall.
  • "So go get 'em guys."

Miller appeared befuddled. "Jason was like, 'Uh, thanks for that coach. Alright everybody, let's get back to work'," the source recalled. Then everybody returned to their desks for another day in an office that often resembled The Office.

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