Trump joins TikTok, calling it “an honor” despite once pushing for a ban


Trump wanted to ban the app during his presidency, but the courts blocked his move.

Donald Trump has joined the popular video-sharing app TikTok, a platform he once tried to ban during his time in the White House, and posted footage from a UFC fight, two days after becoming the first former president and likely major party nominee in U.S. history to be found guilty of a serious crime.

“It's an honor,” Trump said in the TikTok video, which shows footage of him waving to fans and posing for selfies at the Ultimate Fighting Championship bout Saturday night in Newark, New Jersey. The video ends with Trump telling the camera, “That was a good performance, right?”

By Sunday morning, Trump had amassed more than 1.1 million followers on the platform and his post had received more than a million likes and 24 million views.

“We will not leave any front undefended, and this represents continued targeting of a younger audience that consumes pro-Trump and anti-Biden content,” Trump spokesman Steven Cheung said in a statement about the campaign's decision to join the platform.

“There is no better place than a UFC event to launch President Trump's Tik Tok, where he was welcomed like a hero and thousands of fans cheered him on,” he added.

Democratic President Joe Biden signed a bill in April that could ban TikTok in the U.S., even as his campaign team joined the campaign in February in trying to work with influencers.

Trump received an enthusiastic welcome at the rally at the Prudential Center in Newark, with one crowd chanting “We love Trump!” and another yelling an expletive at Biden.

It was Trump's first public appearance since a New York jury found him guilty on Thursday of 34 counts of falsifying business records. He was part of a scheme to illegally influence the 2016 election by covering up hush money payments to a porn star who claimed she and Trump had sex. Trump has insisted he did nothing wrong and plans to appeal the verdict. He will be sentenced on July 11.

Throughout his campaign, Trump has used appearances at UFC fights to project an image of strength and appeal to potential voters who may not follow politics as closely or engage with traditional news sources. It's also part of a broader effort to appeal to young people and minority voters, particularly Latinos and black men.

TikTok, owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, is another way to reach these potential voters. The platform has about 170 million users in the U.S., most of whom are younger — a demographic that is particularly difficult for campaigns to reach because they avoid television.

As president, Trump attempted to ban TikTok through an executive order that said “the proliferation in the United States of mobile applications developed and operated by Chinese companies” was a national security threat. The courts blocked the effort after TikTok sued.

Both the FBI and the Federal Communications Commission have warned that ByteDance could share user data such as browsing history, location and biometric identifiers with the Chinese government. TikTok said it has never done so and would not do so if asked.

The platform was a hot topic of discussion during the 2024 Republican primary campaign, with most candidates opposing its use. Many, including former Vice President Mike Pence, called for a ban on TikTok in the U.S. due to its ties to China.

Trump said earlier this year he still believed TikTok posed a national security risk, but he opposed a ban because it would help rival Facebook, which he continues to criticize over its 2020 election loss to Biden.

“Honestly, there are a lot of people on TikTok who love it. There are a lot of young people on TikTok who would be crazy without it,” Trump told CNBC.

The law signed by Biden gives ByteDance nine months to sell the company. If a sale is already underway, it can have an additional three months. Otherwise, TikTok will be banned. Biden banned the app from most government devices in December 2022.

His re-election campaign is still using the app, which it joined on the night of the Super Bowl in February. Staff argue that in an increasingly fragmented modern media environment, the campaign needs to get its message to voters across as many platforms as possible, including TikTok as well as WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

Biden’s account “bidenhq” currently has more than 330,000 followers and 4.5 million likes.

Trump's appearance at Saturday's fight came after he sat down for an interview with Fox News Channel's “Fox & Friends Weekend,” which aired Sunday.

During this appearance, Trump said the prospect of a possible prison sentence or house arrest was “OK” for him because “it is what it is.”

But he again suggested that the public might not accept such punishment for a former president who is now fighting to return to the White House.

“I don't know if the public would stomach that, you know. I'm not sure the public would stomach that,” he said. “I think it would be hard for the public to stomach that. You know, at a certain point there's a breaking point.”

Trump, as he has done throughout the trial, maintained his innocence and said he had done “absolutely nothing wrong.”

He was asked how his wife, former First Lady Melania Trump, reacted to the news.

“She's fine. But I think it's very hard for her. I mean, she's fine. But you know, she has to read all this crap,” he said.

She did not appear in court with Trump at any point during the seven-week trial.

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Colvin reported from Annapolis, Maryland, Weissert from Rehoboth Beach, Delaware and Kinnard from Chapin, South Carolina.

Jill Colvin, Will Weissert and Meg Kinnard, The Associated Press