In March, former US president Donald Trump was traveling on his private plane with a group of reporters after a campaign rally in Waco, Texas. At first, Trump was in good spirits and engaging with the journalists. However, things took a turn when NBC News reporter Vaughn Hillyard started questioning Trump about his recent behavior and possible frustration with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s investigation. Trump became increasingly irritated and eventually snapped at Hillyard, telling him not to ask any more questions. Approximately ten minutes later, Hillyard persisted with his inquiries about the investigation, and Trump lost his temper completely, reportedly grabbing the reporter’s two phones and throwing them aside. A source familiar with the incident stated that Trump then instructed his aides to remove Hillyard from the plane. The exchange was recorded and obtained by Vanity Fair.
The incident in question took place just a few days before former President Donald Trump was set to be indicted by a Manhattan grand jury for his alleged involvement in hush-money payments made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. While some of Trump’s comments during the incident have been previously reported, such as his attack on Bragg’s probe as a “fake case,” there is much more to the story.
During the incident, Trump lashed out at NBC News reporter Vaughn Hillyard when asked about the investigation, insisting that he had done nothing wrong and calling the press “fake news.” However, things took a violent turn when Trump picked up Hillyard’s recording devices and threw them across the plane, which can be heard in the recording. Trump also called for Hillyard to be removed from the plane, indicating his hostile relationship with the press remains unchanged.
Despite Trump’s aggressive behavior, Axios reported that his 2024 team is running a more professional operation than his previous campaigns, with seasoned political operatives planning a “disciplined campaign.” However, Trump’s incident with Hillyard shows that his attitude toward the press has not changed. Throughout his time in the White House, Trump was known for lashing out at reporters and using “fake news” as a rallying cry during his campaign.
Hillyard’s questions during the incident centered around Trump’s posts on Truth Social, a social media platform created by the former president. Trump had warned of potential “death and destruction” if he was indicted and Hillyard sought clarification on his version of events surrounding the DA’s investigation. Trump became increasingly agitated and eventually threw Hillyard’s recording devices before calling for him to be removed from the plane.
The incident appears to have led to reduced mainstream press access for the Trump campaign. During a subsequent trip to New Hampshire, only conservative outlets were present on the plane, and invitations to mainstream outlets for the trip were declined. Despite this, Trump is set to participate in a town hall on CNN in the near future.
Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung did not address the incident directly but did speak to the campaign’s press availability, indicating that they had invited mainstream reporters for the New Hampshire trip, but they had declined due to events or editor refusals. The campaign has received many media requests to ride on “Trump Force One” for an upcoming Iowa rally, and they will choose which reporters to bring carefully.