News

Trump's 'Day One' Remark to 'Dictator' Question Referenced the Southern Border and Oil Drilling

The former U.S. president was interviewed by Fox News host Sean Hannity in December 2023. One moment in particular was highlighted by the news media.

Published Jan 24, 2024

Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump waves goodbye to supporters at the conclusion of a campaign rally in the basement ballroom of The Margate Resort on Jan. 22, 2024 in Laconia, New Hampshire. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Image Via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

It's been more than a month and a half since former U.S. President Donald Trump sat down for an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity for his nightly TV show, "Hannity."

Since the initial airing of the interview on Dec. 5, 2023, one particular series of answers from Trump appeared to have received more attention from the news media than any other moment during the broadcast.

While the interview was still airing, @BidenHQ, U.S. President Joe Biden's rapid response campaign account on X (formerly Twitter), posted six seconds from one of Trump's answers with the caption, "Trump: I will be a dictator on day one."

As of late January 2024, Trump's "Day One" remark about being a dictator was still a hot topic, including on Fox News.

In this story, we'll explore the full context of Trump's remarks and lay out the word-for-word transcript that shows the somewhat context-free way his comments were highlighted in headlines from some news organizations.

Hannity's Monologue

Hannity began the broadcast on that early December night with a monologue, as is usually the case with his show. He showed the audience a brief clip from the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in March 2023, in which Trump had given a speech and said, "I am your retribution."

Hannity continued his monologue, showing examples of some news organizations either publishing or broadcasting the idea that Trump was looking to lead a "dictatorship," should he be reelected to a second term in the 2024 presidential election. (That moment can be watched at the 4:03 mark in the video below.)

The Transcript and Context of Trump's Remarks

Following Hannity's monologue, he asked Trump about the "dictatorship" claims in the news media he had just referenced. The following portion of the interview can be watched in this clip on the Internet Archive's TV News website:

TRUMP: I mean, who doesn't want to see strong borders and a strong military and low taxes and low interest rates and go out and buy a house?

HANNITY: I play it on purpose because I see what the media is doing now. I put a montage together.

TRUMP: Yeah.

HANNITY: They want to call you a dictator.

TRUMP: (shaking his head)

HANNITY: You use the words, "I am your retribution." And, now, before that you said if you've been wronged and you'd used other words as well. But I want to be very, very clear on this. To be clear, do you in any way have any plans whatsoever, if reelected president, to abuse power, to break the law, to use the government to go after people … ?

TRUMP: You mean like they're using right now? So, in the history of our country, what's happened to us, again, has never happened before. Over nonsense. Over nothing. Made-up charges. I often say, Al Capone, he was one of the greatest of all time, if you like criminals. He was a mob boss, the likes of which "Scarface," they called him. And he got indicted once. I got indicted four times. I wonder what my father and mother would say, looking down.

Note: CNN.com that found Al Capone was indicted six times, not just one time as Trump claimed.

Moments later, Trump told Hannity and the audience that he wants to "close the border" on "Day One," should he be reelected to a second term (watch here):

TRUMP: I love what I do because we are going to have … we are going to make our country greater than ever before. And … (crowd applauding) … that is so important. It's so important. We are going to do things. We're gonna close the border, Day One. The border gets closed. … (crowd applauding) … And Day One and a Half, we drill. You know we drill, baby, drill. Drill. Drill. Drill. … (crowd applauding louder) … And probably on Day Two we'll get rid of this ridiculous electric car mandate … (crowd continuing to applaud)

Shortly thereafter, Hannity asked Trump again about the dictatorship claims that were being mentioned in the news media, prompting Trump to make the "Day One" comment that was highlighted by the @BidenHQ X account. He then referenced two policies: action at the U.S.-Mexico border and the drilling of oil (watch here):

HANNITY: We almost have to go to a break. I want to go back to this one issue though, because the media has been focused on this and [are] attacking you. Under no circumstances, you are promising America tonight, you would never abuse power as retribution against anybody?

TRUMP: Except for Day One.

HANNITY: Except for …

TRUMP: (smiling and pointing at Hannity) Look, he's going crazy. Except for Day One.

HANNITY: Meaning?

TRUMP: I want to close the border and I want to drill, drill, drill.

HANNITY: That's not … that's … that's not … that's not "retribution."

TRUMP: No no. I'm gonna be … I'm gonna be, you know he keeps, we love this guy.

HANNITY: (laughing)

TRUMP: He says, "You're not gonna be a dictator, are you?" I said no, no, no … other than Day One. We're closing the border and we're drilling, drilling, drilling. After that, I'm not a dictator, OK?

HANNITY: Well, that … that … that sounds to me like you're going back to the policies … (Trump laughing) … when you were president.

TRUMP: That's exactly …

HANNITY: All right, we'll take a break. Just getting started. We're in beautiful Davenport, Iowa. Donald Trump with us for the hour, as "Hannity" continues. Thank you for being with us.

Trump's remarks, when viewed in their full context, came as he pointed and smiled at Hannity and clarified that his usage of the term "dictator" — which came from Hannity's own reading of reporting and remarks made in the news media — referred to two items: Trump's policies regarding the U.S.-Mexico border and the drilling of oil. "After that, I'm not a dictator, OK?," Trump said, laughing and then agreeing verbally just seconds later when Hannity said Trump was only referencing his own policy proposals.

Headlines from News Media

Following the interview, Trump's "Day One" remark from the interview was published in headlines on prominent news websites:

ABC News: "Trump raises new alarms, saying he wouldn't be a 'dictator' except on 'Day One'"

The Associated Press: "Trump’s vow to only be a dictator on ‘day one’ follows growing worry over his authoritarian rhetoric"

The Atlantic: "Trump Says He'll Be a Dictator on 'Day One.'"

The Boston Globe: "Trump says he’ll be a dictator on ‘day one.’ Legal experts are concerned."

Business Insider: "Trump says he'll only be a dictator 'on day 1'"

CBS News: "Trump says he would be a dictator only on 'Day One' if he wins a second term"

The Guardian: "Trump says he will be a dictator only on ‘day one’ if elected president"

MSNBC: "Trump says he would be a dictator only on 'day one' of second term"

NBC News: "Trump says he won't be a dictator if elected, 'except for Day One'"

The New York Times: "Trump Says He Wouldn't Be a Dictator, 'Except for Day 1'"

Politico: "Trump: I won’t be a dictator 'except for day one'"

Vanity Fair: "Donald Trump: Don't Worry, I'll Only Be a Dictator for One Day"

The Washington Post: "Trump says he wouldn't be a dictator 'except for Day One'"

The context of Trump's remarks regarding the border and oil drilling was absent from these headlines and was mentioned in only some of the articles' subheadings. The body of each of the stories included the context of Trump's remarks.

Trump: 'I'm Not Going to be a Dictator'

On Jan. 6, 2024, Trump told a crowd during a campaign rally in Iowa that he had been "kidding" when he was interviewed by Hannity. He also called the news media "sick" and "so corrupt."

Four days later, Trump explained his remarks yet again during a Fox News town hall in Des Moines, Iowa, that was hosted by Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum.

"No, no. I am not going to be a dictator," Trump said.

"I'm going to manage like we did," Trump continued, referencing his first term in office. "We were so successful that the country was coming together. It was actually coming together and coming together well. It was a beautiful thing to see. And we're going to do that again."

Sources

Dale, Daniel. “Fact Check: Trump Keeps Saying He’s Been Indicted More than Al Capone. It’s Not True | CNN Politics.” CNN, 20 Nov. 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/11/20/politics/fact-check-trump-al-capone-indicted-once/index.html.

“Donald Trump: I’m Not Going to Be a Dictator.” YouTube, Fox News, 10 Jan. 2024, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TI0TfaIpr9s.

Fox News. “Hannity: The Stakes Could Not Be Any Higher.” YouTube, 5 Dec. 2023, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4xyq7_4Mr8.

“Hannity.” Internet Archive TV News, Fox News, 5 Dec. 2023, https://archive.org/details/FOXNEWSW_20231206_020000_Hannity/.

“Trump Defends ‘I Will Be A Dictator For One Day’ Comment During Iowa Campaign Stop.” YouTube, Forbes Breaking News, 6 Jan. 2024, www.youtube.com/watch?v=vOJuSKb5B3c.

@TrumpWarRoom. X (Formerly Twitter), 4 Mar. 2023, https://twitter.com/TrumpWarRoom/status/1632161230348492800.

Jordan Liles is a Senior Reporter who has been with Snopes since 2016.