Donald Trump skipped the second GOP debate to hold a rally for auto workers on strike in Michigan - but the crowd has come under suspicion after some attendees reportedly revealed they don’t fit in that category.
Mr Trump visited Drake Enterprises, a non-unionized auto parts factory, on Wednesday night while seven of his rivals in the 2024 election faced off in California.
In a speech during his visit, Mr Trump claimed “thousands of people” had gathered to meet him in Michigan.
But the composition of the audience is now under scrutiny after a report by The Detroit News claimed one attendee holding a “union members for Trump” sign admitted that she is not in a union, while another holding an “auto workers for Trump” sign said he was not an auto worker.
The event drew a crowd of about 400-500 Trump supporters, according to The Detroit News, while Drake Enterprises only has around 150 employees.
Auto workers are currently on strike in Detroit over pay and working conditions.
President Joe Biden made history on Tuesday as the first US president to join a picket line when he visited members of the United Auto Workers union.
Mr Biden was invited to visit the UAW members by the group’s president, Shawn Fain, who has sometimes been critical of Mr Trump.
Mr Fain refused to meet with Mr Trump during his Michigan visit, criticizing the GOP candidate as someone who “serves the billionaire class” and calling his appearance at the non-unionized facility a “pathetic irony.”
During his visit, the former president went on an incoherent and inaccurate rant about electric cars, telling Drake Enterprises workers electric vehicles would be the death of the American car industry.
He falsely claimed that EVs are actually bad for the environment.
“People have no idea how bad this is going to be for the environment, you know those batteries when they get rid of them, and lots of bad things happen, and when they dig it out of the ground to make them, is going to very bad for the environment,” he claimed.
Mr Biden and Mr Trump’s visits to Michigan come as Republicans and Democrats alike focus on the electorally important Midwestern “Rust Belt’’, where blue-collar workers such as UAW members form a vital voting bloc.
Mr Trump poked fun at his GOP rivals during his speech, calling them “job candidates” in the presidential race.
“We are competing with the job candidates, they are all running for a job. They are all job candidates. They will do anything, Secretary of something, they even say VP. Has anyone seen a VP in that group? I don’t think so,” Mr Trump told the crowd.
Mr Trump has refused to take part in any of the Republican presidential primary debates so far.
The former president currently has a 42.2-point lead in the polls over Florida governor Ron DeSantis, according to Real Clear Politics.