Ah, the Four Seasons Total Landscaping press conference!
After four years of scandals, the Donald Trump presidency was slowly coming to a end — just as the vote count was starting to reveal Joe Biden as the next U.S. president.
Even as a Swede with no stake whatsoever in the U.S. election, I was following the drama closely.
Little did I know, that I was going to be in for a slice of modern PR history.
The “Giuliani” tactic — don’t get angry, get mad
At Four Seasons Total Landscaping in Philadelphia, the Trump campaign took to the makeshift stage to add legal comments on behalf of the dire situation for Donald Trump and his dwindling chances of remaining in office.
The press conference was highly anticipated; it wouldn’t have been outlandish for any other candidate to concede at this point, but most of us knew that admitting defeat wasn’t exactly in alignment with the administration’s playbook.
Instead, we got to see Trump’s leading lawyer, former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, put on a show for the cameras.
But first, let’s back up a few hours.
“No, the mistake was the intended mistake”
Earlier that day, Trump tweeted about the press conference to be held at the posh Four Seasons Hotel in Philadelphia. However, shortly thereafter, a new tweet was sent out, clarifying that the location was rather Four Seasons Total Landscaping.
A PBS reporter called Four Seasons Total Landscaping and got the response that the Trump campaign wanted to use their parking lot because it was “secure and close to the I-95”.
The Trump campaign also explained that they had always intended to host their press conference at Four Seasons Total Landscaping — the idea that it was going to be held at the Four Seasons Hotel in the first place was just an internal communication error.
Enter: Four Seasons Total Landscaping
So, the Trump campaign hosted the press conference at the parking lot, close to a jail, across the street of a crematorium and next to a sex shop.
Yes, that’s right:
On a parking lot, close to jail, a crematorium, and a sex shop. Reality is sometimes weirder than fiction, surely.
And I got to watch this part of PR history unfold — live on television.
Giuliani was rampant, screaming and aggressive. At one point, he even demonstratively looked up into the sky, with his arms straight up as if on a crucifix, as he just went on to declare unsubstantiated voter fraud across the nation.
“We have proof that could be proof”
As one of three eye-witnesses, Giuliani introduced a middle-aged man up to speak.
As the somewhat timid man carefully took to the microphone to declare that he clearly had witnessed something unfair adjacent to one voting facility, although it’s already in his statement unclear exactly what he had witnessed.
To me, he came across as a man lying through his teeth and I remember wondering what they had promised him to step forward into the spotlight.
Now, Giuliani and the witness weren’t the only ones to take to the microphone:
First up was actually another “Philadelphia resident and GOP poll watcher” who was presented as a witness of voter fraud, Daryl Brooks.
My “spidey senses” made it difficult for me to find Brooks credible, too. Therefore, I wasn’t at all surprised when I later learned that Brooks was indeed something of a character:
Brooks had been sent to prison in the 1990s for public masturbation and exposing himself to two girls aged 7 and 11. Still, this didn’t stop him for running for various offices, like the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives.
Notably, Brooks always ran in New Jersey — never in Philadelphia.
The shameless card-stacking
Watching all of this unfold, live on television, I scratched my head in bewilderment.
Ending up without any tangible proof for Giuliani’s raging voter fraud claims, we who were watching the press conference from home were left with the simple realisation that the Trump campaign had screamed:
“Stop the count!” when they were in the lead,
“Count all the votes!” when they were behind, and
“Voter fraud!” when the results came in.
It’s an act of card-stacking to such a shameless degree that I’ve never ever witnessed anything like it in my long PR career!
Now, what about Four Seasons Total Landscaping, then?
An opportunity for merch
“Make America rake again.”
“Trying to make America green again.”
“Lawn & Order!”
It’s the “land of opportunity” after all, so why not take your lemons and squeeze some exciting PR out of it?
And, the internet sure had its fair share of fun, too.
Social media found ways to be creative
Now, all of this is hilarious.
And breathtakingly incompetent.
Still, there’s much darkness to this whole circus, too. Many have suggested that this is the perfect ending, ‘poetic’ even, to the most controversial presidency in U.S. history.
We still don’t know how far Trump’s lawyers are prepared to push this agenda of trying to overthrow the democratic process and keep the power over the world’s most powerful nation. Still, that should thankfully be a little bit more challenging than arranging a press conference in Philadelphia.
All in all, this is a slice of modern PR history, just as it could’ve been an episode of Veep.