Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech on Tuesday night was marked with dozens of lies, threats, and false claims that more than deserved the shredding Nancy Pelosi delivered to the text. In defending Trump’s speech, his supporters have pointed to the supposedly “uplifting” moments and personal stories that Trump slipped in between false claims about President Obama or fear-mongering over “criminal aliens.”
Among those happy stories was that of Philadelphia fourth grader Janiyah Davis, who Trump said was trapped in a “failing government school” before he made the point of awarding her, and only her, a scholarship, live, on prime time TV. Anyone watching would have seen that Janiyah was puzzled by Trump’s statements and had to be encouraged to applaud. As it turns out, there’s a very good reason—Janiyah Davis was already going to a top-notch school, had no need for a scholarship, and didn’t have a clue why Trump put her in the audience.
As the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, Janiyah attends Math, Science and Technology Community Charter School III, one of Philadelphia’s most sought-after schools. It’s a charter school, but paid for by public funds, so Janiyah and the 900 other students don’t pay tuition.
Janiyah moved to the school last year after previously attending a Christian school that did have a tuition. Based on a statement from the principal at Janiyah’s former school, it seems that someone called up the Christian school and asked about students who might need a scholarship. That principal apparently gave the White House Janiyah’s name. After this, Janiyah’s mother got a call inviting them to appear in the gallery during the SOTU.
But what the White House failed to do was to check on where Janiyah Davis was going to school, or if she needed a scholarship. They also didn’t bother to tell her mother why she and Janiyah were being invited to appear, or warn them that Trump was going to turn the camera their way during his speech.
With Republicans shouting and clapping, Trump continued the game show atmosphere of his address by informing Janiyah that she had just won a scholarship to any school she wanted to attend. Courtesy of Trump’s need for a photo-op. The problem is that Janiyah’s mother said afterwards that “I don’t view MaST as a school you want to get out of at all. I view it as a great opportunity.”
So Trump gave Janiyah Davis nothing. Which seems like the perfect ending to a story that began with Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos applauding the idea of “failing government schools” as if neither of them had anything to do with, ick, government schools. The actual point of reaching out to someone in Philadelphia appears to be because Trump wanted to take a swipe at Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf this week, because Wolf vetoed a bill that would have awarded tax credits for attending private schools—a favorite program of DeVos.
Janiyah has plenty of company. Trump has been offering all kinds of prizes to people who donate to his campaign, without bothering to follow through. And there are the veterans he stiffed during the 2016 campaign, along with all the other times he’s lied about his gifts to charities.
But that the White House brought a fourth grader and her single mom to the State of the Union to use them as props, without even bothering to ask the most basic questions about their life, inform them about why they were being invited, or ask them about being props in Trump’s speech … seems absolutely on brand for Trump.