While opening the faux “Presidential Library” dedicated to all the terrible shit Donald Trump has said on Twitter, Trevor Noah obliquely referenced that time he was excoriated for saying terrible shit on Twitter. “I like the Donald J. Trump tweets because he is the first millennial president, and as a millennial I appreciate this,” Noah told an audience of reporters during a press preview. “I too share my feelings on Twitter. I too have had my ups and downs on Twitter. And any millennial is familiar with the constant threat of losing your job because of a tweet, and I like to know that the president shares in that feeling.”
Noah’s allusion to the time he was briefly the subject of controversy—when, after being hired for his Daily Show gig, some unsavory jokes he’d made were dug up—was, on the one hand, surprisingly frank. For the most part, Noah stayed in character during the ceremony, acting as someone ironically respectful of the president. But it also spoke to the underlying joke of the library: Social media is both permanent and ephemeral. It may be hard to remember Trump’s Twitter nonsense from years ago—his war with Diet Coke, for instance, had slipped my mind—but as it is for everyone, even his deleted tweets are never truly gone.
Located in midtown Manhattan, just a short walk away from Trump Tower, The Donald J. Trump Presidential Twitter Library opens today for its short, weekend-only run. Credit is due to The Daily Show team behind it, who took what could have been just printed-out tweets stuck to the wall and rendered them into something cleverly conceptual, adding gallery note cards to “explain” some of the artistic motivation behind his under 140-character statements. The accompanying description of “Covfefe,” for instance, notes: “With confident reference to Gilbert Stuart’s ‘Unfinished Portrait’ of President Washington, President Trump compels viewers to a greater level of engagement, demanding that they fill the post-fragment negative space.” Other sections are dedicated to Trump’s “Constructive Criticism” and his “Deleted But Not Forgotten” works. There is an entire island paying tribute to his “Concern For The Integrity Of The American Presidency”—a.k.a. his “birther” pursuit of President Obama.
“We were joking just on our way over here of just how you don’t get a chance to remember what happened yesterday because you’re so focused on today,” correspondent Jordan Klepper said while standing near the wall dedicated to the president’s various skirmishes. “To see some of these things, like the birther thing. You’re like, oh, I forget that this wasn’t just a couple things that he said over the course of an angry month. This happened over and over and over again. To be able to revisit where his mind was at different points over the last six years is eye-opening, which is hard. In the world of Donald Trump, to continue to have your eyes be opened over and over again is a rarity.”
There are interactive sections: A “MAGA-Netic Wall” invites visitors to make Trump-themed, oversized magnetic poetry. A nickname generator comes up with the insult Trump would ascribe to you. (Yours truly got “possibly insane Esther.”) The centerpiece is a game of sorts where participants can sit on a golden-colored toilet, put on a robe, and receive a prompt encouraging them to come up with their most Trump-like insult to tweet out. Most unexpectedly delightful is the section dedicated to “verified survivors,” where one can put on headphones to hear testimonials from notable figures who have fought with Trump on Twitter, including people like Touré and Barney Frank. Stephen King, recently blocked by Trump, opines, “In short, I am an existential loser waiting for Trump instead of Godot.” In his recording, Tavis Smiley triumphantly declares, “When you mess with Tavis Smiley, you mess with all of PBS. So Trump better understand that now he’ll never be on This Old House. Ha!”
Noah has described the library as “living,” while Klepper noted that the planners had to stay “nimble.” So if Trump tweets during the 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. visiting hours—which, frankly, seems unlikely, given his early morning habits—an alarm will sound.
“Whenever a new tweet happens, the room will be alerted by a magical sound inspired by the infamous line the president once said,” Noah said. “I think it was bing bing bong bong bing bing bong bong. And once that sound emanates throughout the room, people will know that the president has spoken from those beautiful tiny little thumbs.” Speaking of “tiny thumbs,” when entering guests are greeted by a sculpture of those little fingers clutching an Android. A staircase just to the side of that leads to a replica of a locked vault where Trump’s “tax returns” are held.
Noah maintained something of an arch tone throughout his conference, but Klepper and fellow correspondent Hasan Minhaj were more upfront about the fact that, although it’s superficially funny, seeing all these tweets together paints a rather scary picture.
“It’s like, how do we pay homage to his most terrifying contribution to society?” Minhaj said. Though, as he acknowledged, at least there’s something reassuring about experiencing it communally in a public space. “I think a lot of times when you read the tweets you’re alone, by yourself in an apartment or on the train, and you’re like, why is this happening to me?” Minhaj added. “This museum gives you an opportunity to sort of hold hands with your fellow man and fellow New Yorker to say we’re not in this alone, and if the world is going to crumble we’ll be here together.”
Asked what Trump would think of the Presidential Library, Noah responded, “I think if the president was to come down here, I think he would like to see himself on the walls. I think he would like to see his words immortalized. I think he would like to see that we appreciate what many people have lambasted him for.”
Still, a more accurate answer may have come this morning, straight from the source:
The Donald J. Trump Presidential Twitter Library is located at 3 W. 57th St., New York City, New York, and is open from June 16-18, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Admission is free.