“Wait —” is a weekly newsletter in which Caity Weaver investigates an unanswered (and possibly unasked) question in the news and pop culture. Catch up on the past two columns and sign up here to receive it in your inbox going forward.
One thing I am curious to know is what made Donald Trump bleed two weeks ago. His bleeding hand is a footnote on a footnote on a footnote of history as, in the foreground, the vital machinery of government continues to rust from non-use. The facts of how and why he incurred a minor hand injury are likely not important enough that they should be wondered about weeks after the fact for even one second by any but the person with the absolute most time on his or her hands, which, unfortunately for me, is me.
For everyone else: On Jan. 10, the president traveled to Texas, where he was seen wearing a blood-soaked adhesive bandage on his right hand, as captured in this image on Sean Hannity’s Instagram account.
When the president stopped to speak with reporters outside the White House that morning before departing for Texas, he already had a clean bandage on his right hand. Because blood was visible during his appearance at Anzalduas Dam (scheduled for 3:30 p.m. E.S.T.), we may infer that an initial wound was somehow reopened in the intervening six hours.
It doesn’t matter, and yet I desire to know every detail, top to bottom, of how the president came to be bleeding before a crowd of people.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, addressed the injury in a statement to Politico, saying, “The president was having fun and joking around with his son Barron and scratched his hand.”
Which could happen.
Anyway — across the ages, presidential injuries have been confined to the realm of historical ephemera; breaking news of international importance that vanishes from all recollection.
Remember when Barack Obama took an elbow to the face during a basketball game, necessitating 12 stitches (and him to hold an ice pack to his face as he gazed out a White House window at the White House Christmas tree)?
Remember when George W. Bush fainted alone while choking on a pretzel, and the country learned that Secret Service agents are generally not posted to the residential quarters of the White House?
Remember when, in 1902, almost exactly a year after William McKinley was shot, his successor, Theodore Roosevelt, nearly died in a gruesome carriage accident?
That accident occurred when an electric trolley car slammed into the side of a horse-drawn carriage transporting President Roosevelt through Massachusetts, sending all four carriage passengers flying through the air.
President Roosevelt was flung face first into a dirt pile; his favorite Secret Service agent, William Craig, was thrown under the trolley, where, The Times graphically reported, he was killed instantly, “his entire skull being crushed, and his body terribly mangled.” (The San Francisco Call published a vivid minimalist watercolor imagining of the scene.)
Mr. Craig was the first Secret Service agent to die while serving the president; before President McKinley’s assassination, the agency focused mostly on investigating counterfeit currency.
(In fact, at the time of this accident, Mr. McKinley’s vice president turned president, Theodore Roosevelt, was so new to office that he had not yet named his own vice president. Had he been killed, the presidency would have fallen to Secretary of State John Hay, a Midwesterner who counted among his “dearest friends” every United States president who had been assassinated to that point.)
The Times reported that, as a bruise rapidly swelled his face, President Roosevelt — covered in dirt, bleeding from his mouth, “deeply overcome” by the sight of his friend’s destroyed body — stormed up to the trolley and demanded the driver identify himself.
At which point the president, gesturing violently, screamed at the man, “This is the most damnable outrage I ever knew.” (He then “gave his attention to stanching the blood that was flowing from cuts in the neck of” his personal secretary.)
A few days after the account was published in The Times, a reader named Carl from Hoboken, N.J., wrote in to propose a correction: “The fact is that the President knew of a more damnable carriage — that is, child labor in the cotton mills of South Carolina, an outrage perpetrated upon 20,000 children of that State by a few New England manufacturers.”
Three weeks after the accident, President Roosevelt underwent emergency surgery in the midst of a national tour to drain an abscess “as large as a baby’s fist, perhaps a little larger” that had developed on his leg as a result of his fall.
And it’s not even mentioned in his Wikipedia entry.
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