What's The Story Behind Trump's 'You're Telling Me Now For The First Time' Meme?
In the death throes of Donald Trump's presidency, many Americans were tired of his headline-grabbing antics. He was the subject of literally hundreds of memes, every week doing something the internet latched onto for its outrageousness, and seemingly every time he did something meme-worthy, that action would soon be forgotten in a matter of days, when he'd inevitably, wildly, do something else.
Perhaps that's why in the post-Trump era, his most enduring meme is one of his most subdued. It shows Trump on a tarmac, finger to his ear, fumbling through his words as he works to feign surprise and sadness (unsuccessfully, we'd add) at receiving news of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death.
President Trump on death of Justice Ginsburg: "She just died? Wow. I didn't know that…She led an amazing life. What else can you say? She was an amazing woman, whether you agree or not. She was an amazing woman who led an amazing life. I'm actually sad to hear that." pic.twitter.com/6oKuL671qO
— CSPAN (@cspan) September 19, 2020
The moment, now best known by his iconic expression, "Wow. I didn't know that. You're telling me this for the first time," has outlasted nearly all of the hundreds of Trump-related memes in the years after he got banned from social media, perhaps because it was one of the few times Trump couldn't push through an uncomfortable moment with sheer bluff and bravado.
After the moment hit Twitter in September 2020, it actually wasn't an instant meme. It seemed like another normal surreal Trump clip, though people wondered if Trump's reaction was just a transparent lie, and that he had known about Ginsburg's death before the reporter told him.
tiny dancer playing in the background of this is actually going to give me madness https://t.co/zYBJolpwnN
— rachel (@rachelmillman) September 19, 2020
When people tell me something I definitely didn’t already know about, I love to say “Wow, I didn’t know that, you’re telling me now for the first time” and then give a response that definitely isn’t prepared in advance https://t.co/EVE6CZwyFx
— Eli Lee 🧿 (@elilee_) September 19, 2020
It actually wasn't until months into Joe Biden's presidency that the moment started seeing use as a meme. Picking up on Trump's unconvincing surprise, the meme template started picking up in 2021 and especially in 2022 to depict people "learning" information that they definitely already knew.
While many Trump memes have fallen woefully out of favor, "You're telling me this for the first time" has endured into year three of Biden's presidency. Perhaps this is because it's one of the less outright political memes from the Trump era. Since the former President's surreal, improvised attempt at conveying surprise and grief isn't actively coded as left or right-wing, it can be enjoyed by anyone.
Furthermore, it captures Trump, well known for barreling through any difficult interview or question by confidently rambling through it, having to approximate a normal response to learning of the death of a respected American. That he failed so spectacularly (at least in the eyes of many) transcended politics and landed squarely in the realm of comedy. In fact, it's not all that different from a Friends gag.
For more information, check out the Know Your Meme entry on You're telling me now for the first time.
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