Donald Trump, it seems, has mastered the art of the flip-flop.
The GOP presidential frontrunner's strategy seems to be: Make a statement in an interview, see if it sticks and, if the backlash is swift, release a statement saying that you never really meant what you said and instead agree with whatever is currently the more popular opinion on the matter.
Yesterday, Trump changed his stance on North Carolina’s anti-LGBT law in less than 24 hours, offering one opinion on “Today” in the morning and another on “Hannity” that night.
The shift, which came after Trump faced criticism from his leading GOP rival, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, and conservative activists, was far from the first time Trump has made such an abrupt change in a policy position. Here are just five instances where the GOP presidential frontrunner has made similarly swift reversals:
Trump has made a big deal out of the fact that he, like Ronald Reagan, was once adamantly pro-choice but is now an opponent of abortion rights. When asked at a MSNBC town hall event if he believes women should be punished for having abortions if he is successful in outlawing the procedure, Trump meandered before eventually concluding that “there has to be some form of punishment.”
In a statement released hours later, Trump said that it should be left to the states to determine what, if any, punishment women should face for having an illegal abortion. His campaign then sent out yet another statement saying that Trump would only seek to punish abortion providers rather than the women who have abortions, stating that the woman is, in fact, “a victim.”
The next day, following his reversal, Trump defended his initial answer, saying that he “didn’t see any big deal” about his original remarks about punishing women and boasting that “a lot of people thought my answer was excellent.”
One day after that, Trump switched his view on choice yet again, saying wouldn’t want to see abortion outlawed after all: “The laws are set and I think we have to leave it that way.” Naturally, his campaign backtracked within hours, saying that Trump only meant that he wouldn’t personally seek to change abortion laws but that “he will change the law through his judicial appointments.”
2) Nuclear proliferation
On March 26, Trump said that nuclear proliferation is the “biggest” problem he sees in the world.
“It’s a very scary nuclear world,” he told the New York Times. “Biggest problem, to me, in the world, is nuclear, and proliferation.”
In the very same interview, Trump floated the idea of letting Japan acquire nuclear weapons because he is tired of the U.S. having to defend its ally.
On March 29, when Anderson Cooper asked him to clarify his remarks, Trump said that he wanted not only Japan but also South Korea and Saudi Arabia to acquire nuclear weapons so the U.S. could save money on military assistance and because “it’s going to happen, anyway.” In the same conversation, Trump also told Cooper that he would oppose nuclear proliferation and doesn’t want to see nations like Saudi Arabia have nuclear weapons.
3) War crimes
The morning after Trump declared at a presidential debate in Detroit that he would order members of the military to commit war crimes and use illegal torture techniques — “If I say do it, they’re going to do it” — his campaign released a statement quoting the candidate as saying that he acknowledges “that the United States is bound by laws and treaties and I will not order our military or other officials to violate those laws.”
But just hours after that statement came out, Trump bragged at a Michigan rally about his support for torture, later explaining that he seeks to expand and broaden the rules on torture to compete with ISIS.
4) Guest workers
At the Detroit debate, Trump said that despite what his official website says about guest workers, he would approve of an expansion of the guest worker visa program. “I’m changing. I’m changing. We need highly skilled people in this country,” he said, remarks that surprised many, considering that he is running on a strict anti-immigrant platform.
Of course, Trump's campaign later put out a statement saying that the candidate was in fact sticking with his original opposition to guest worker visas.
Then-rival Marco Rubio said in a response to the flip-flop-flip: “Tonight, Donald Trump finally took an actual position. But as soon as the debate was over, his handlers made him reverse himself. The Republican nominee cannot be somebody who is totally clueless on so many issues, including his signature issue.”
It took just one day for Trump to reverse his stance on the resettlement of Syrian refugees.
On September 8, he told Fox News host Bill O’Reilly that “on a humanitarian basis, with what’s happening you have to” take in some refugees. “They’re living in hell, and something has to be done,” he said.
On September 9, he told Fox News host Sean Hannity that he would oppose any resettlement of refugees from the conflict. Eventually, Trump declared that he would deport Syrian refugees already settled in the U.S.
While not a complete flip, Trump has also tried to change his tune on his proposed ban on Muslims from entering the country. On the same day that he released a statement stating that he wants “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims from entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on,” he told Fox News host Greta Van Susteren that certain Muslims, such as those serving in the military and those he is personally friends with, would be allowed to come in. He later clarified again that his sweeping ban would not apply to the “very rich Muslims” that he knows.