What was Donald Trump talking about in his cryptic tweet about Bill Weld?

"The third is a man who couldn’t stand up straight while receiving an award."

Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, right at podium, is held by college dignitaries as he starts to collapse while receiving an honorary degree from Bentley College on May 18, 1996, in Waltham. He was rushed to the Waltham Deaconness Hospital. AP Photo / WHDH Channel 7

President Donald Trump went after his two declared Republican primary challengers, as well as one potential GOP candidate, on his medium of choice Tuesday night: Twitter.

In a series of tweets, Trump referred to the three fellow Republicans as the “Three Stooges.” The president attacked Joe Walsh, the former Illinois congressman and conservative radio host who announced his candidacy Sunday, as a “one-time BAD Congressman from Illinois who lost in his second term by a landslide, then failed in radio.” He also called Mark Sanford, who has openly considered a primary campaign, “Mr. Appalachian Trail,” referring to the former South Carolina governor and congressman’s infamous 2009 affair.


His remark about Bill Weld, the former Massachusetts governor who has been running against Trump since February, was less clear.

“The third is a man who couldn’t stand up straight while receiving an award,” Trump tweeted. “I should be able to take them!”

Weld, a socially liberal Republican, has been a forceful critic of Trump, calling the president a “raging racist” who should resign.

In 2016, Trump responded to Weld’s criticisms by accusing the then-Libertarian vice presidential nominee of alcoholism. However, the president’s most recent attack appears to refer back to an illness-related incident more than 23 years ago.

In 1996, Weld fainted while receiving an honorary doctorate degree from Bentley College (which changed its named to Bentley University in 2008) during the Waltham school’s graduation ceremony. Footage of the event shows the pale-looking governor swaying on stage and later falling forward against the podium just as Bentley officials placed a ceremonial collar over his head.

According to a Boston Globe report at the time, Weld was unconscious for around 30 seconds. And while the episode made national headlines, his illness wasn’t considered serious. Doctors said the collapse appeared to be due to “a case of the stomach flu.” The then-50-year-old, who was also running for Senate, had reportedly complained of nausea and loss of appetite after working through the illness earlier that week.


Weld was released from the hospital the next day, telling reporters that he felt much better — though he conceded that the “image of keeling over is not a great image.”

Of course, the appearance-obsessed president conjured up that image Tuesday. Weld’s campaign says the course of attack is not surprising.

“Donald Trump’s default response when challenged is to insult and disparage, whether it be someone of color, a former associate, or pretty much anyone else,” Joe Hunter, a spokesman for the campaign, told Boston.com in a statement.

“That he would do so to two former Governors and a former Member of Congress is just typical,” Hunter said. “Not very appropriate for the President of the United States, but sadly, typical.”