Trump joins TikTok, calling it ‘an honor.’ As president, he once tried to ban it

Donald Trump has joined the popular video-sharing app TikTok, a platform he once tried to ban while in the White House, posting from a UFC fight two days after becoming the first former president and became the presumptive candidate for any major party in US history. found guilty on misdemeanor charges.

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

As of Sunday morning, Trump had amassed more than 1.1 million followers on the platform and the post had racked up more than 1 million likes and 24 million views.

“We will leave no front unprotected and this represents the continued reach of younger audiences who consume pro-Trump and anti-Biden content,” Trump spokesman Steven Cheung said in a statement about the campaign’s decision to join to connect to the platform.

“There’s no better place 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 tried to work with influencers.

Trump received an enthusiastic reception at the fight at the Prudential Center in Newark, where the crowd erupted in chants of “We love Trump!” and another in which Biden is insulted with an expletive.

It was Trump’s first public appearance since a New York jury found him guilty Thursday of 34 counts of falsifying company records as part of a scheme to illegally influence the 2016 election through hush money payments to a porn actor who claimed she and Trump were obscured. had sex. Trump has insisted he did nothing wrong and plans to appeal the verdict. He will be sentenced on July 11.

During his campaign, Trump has used appearances at UFC fights to project an image of strength and 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 youth and minority voters, especially Latino and Black men.

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

As president, Trump attempted to ban TikTok through an executive order stating that “the distribution in the United States of mobile applications developed and owned by Chinese companies” posed a threat to national security. The courts blocked the action after TikTok filed a lawsuit.

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 the Chinese government. TikTok said it has never done that and wouldn’t do it if asked.

The platform was a hot topic of debate during the 2024 Republican Party primaries, with most candidates shying away from its use. Many, including former Vice President Mike Pence, called for TikTok to be banned in the US due to its connections to 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 his rival, Facebook, which he continues to criticize over his 2020 election loss to Biden.

“Honestly, there are a lot of people on TikTok who love it. There are a lot of young kids on TikTok who will go crazy without TikTok,” 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 not, TikTok will be banned. Biden blocked the app on most government devices in December 2022.

His re-election campaign nevertheless uses the app, with which he participated in the evening of the Super Bowl in February. Aides say that in an increasingly fragmented modern media environment, the campaign must get its message to voters through as many platforms as possible, including TikTok, but also 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 sat down for an interview with Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends Weekend” that aired Sunday.

During that appearance, Trump said he was “OK” with the prospect of possible 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 on the run to return to the White House.

“I don’t know if the audience would put up with it, you know. I’m not sure the public would accept this,” he said. “I think it will be difficult for the public to accept this. You know, at some 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, took the news.

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

At no point during his seven-week trial did she appear in court with Trump.

Colvin reported from Annapolis, Maryland, Weissert from Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, and Kinnard from Chapin, South Carolina.

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