It was all started by Owen Ellickson. A TV writer and producer who’s worked on The Office and Superstore and co-created the short-lived Craig Robinson sitcom Mr. Robinson, Ellickson has been documenting an insider’s look at Donald Trump’s campaign on Twitter for the last several weeks—except it’s all fake. Every line of dialogue, every quote, every absurd situation is completely fabricated, and yet feels true because of the indefatigable, malicious absurdity that defines Donald Trump. Ellickson turns every major player of this election into a tight caricature that captures their essence (or at least the essence of their public persona), from Ben Carson shambling about as a fountain of non sequiturs, to Vince McMahon as perhaps Trump’s only true friend and colleague. Ellickson does his best work with Paul Ryan and John Boehner, with Ryan portrayed as a miserable functionary struggling to tolerate a candidate he clearly detests, with Boehner, ecstatic to be free of the Tea Partiers that took over his party, as the hard-partying ex-co-worker now living the high life.
It’s one of these fictional conversations between Ryan and Boehner that launched perhaps the biggest social media trend of the weekend. Whether you believe it or not, if you got on Twitter on Labor Day you probably saw that #TrumpCantSwim was trending. Ellickson himself didn’t really promote it that much, but fans of his work, including Patton Oswalt, pushed hard to get it trending, in as passive-aggressive a way as possible. It might seem almost irresponsible to focus on such a silly, trivial piece of business instead of satirizing the real-life disaster that a Trump presidency poses, or criticizing his campaign’s incestuous closeness with the shameless right-wing media. There was a bit of a bite to how Oswalt and the rest went about boosting #TrumpCantSwim, though. It wasn’t just silliness, but a blatant mockery of how rumors and innuendo that the right-wing machine starts about liberals and Democrats (yes, including Hillary Clinton) can seep into the public discourse. Just like how Breitbart and talk radio hammered down on Clinton’s supposed health issues for months until the mainstream media finally started reporting on it, in effect making these right-wing conspiracy theories more popular and widespread even when real journalists were refuting them, a bunch of comedians was able to boost a ridiculous non-story into a national profile while constantly saying they don’t believe it to be true. (Of course, to continue this analogy, those comedians would then have to quickly segue to legitimately covering Trump’s inability to swim as if it was real, just as NBC and CNN and every other outlet now apparently feels the need to cover every Clinton coughing fit as if it somehow vindicates Breitbart’s bullshit.)
Anyway: as silly and childish as it sounds, it was kind of interesting to watch the #TrumpCantSwim hashtag grow and prosper over the weekend. Here’s a smattering of the best tweets about whether Trump can or can’t swim, starting with Ellickson’s original story and proceeding from there. And you should definitely follow Ellickson on Twitter: he’s cranking out some of the sharpest, funniest satire of this election.
And if you want more proof that Trump can’t swim, take a look at this 2005 photo from Getty Images. Trump is really far away from that pool. Would a man who knows how to swim need to go to those lengths to avoid a swimming pool?