Just when it seemed like Tuesday’s “Make America Great Again” rally in Florida would end with the typical punch list — Democrats, journalists, immigrants — President Trump added new spice to his usual extemporaneous potpourri by asserting that supermarket shoppers need to show valid identification in the checkout aisle.
“You know,” Mr. Trump knowingly told the approving crowd, “if you go out and you want to buy groceries, you need a picture on a card. You need ID.”
It is not often that Mr. Trump, a mold-breaking billionaire, is seen as behaving presidential, which he thinks would be too boring, anyway. But with this particular offhand and baldly inaccurate comment, the president landed himself in the company of other presidents and presidential hopefuls who have fumbled while trying to showcase their everyman appeal.
The obvious question immediately surfaced: Has Mr. Trump ever been in the checkout line at a grocery store?
Several of the president’s friends — one of them a billionaire owner of a chain of grocery stores — said they cannot recall Mr. Trump ever doing his own grocery shopping. John A. Catsimatidis, the owner of Gristedes Foods, a chain of small grocery stores in Manhattan and Brooklyn, said in an interview that he has known the president for 40 years, but cannot recall a time when Mr. Trump entered one of his stores.
“I wouldn’t know,” Mr. Catsimatidis said. “I don’t have any pictures with him in Gristedes.”
Thomas J. Barrack Jr., another billionaire friend of the president’s, was blunt when asked if Mr. Trump ever did his own grocery shopping.
“No,” Mr. Barrack said in a text complete with a smiley face emoji. Mr. Barrack, a financier, did not respond to a follow-up question about how he got his own groceries.
Mr. Catsimatidis said that he knew Mr. Trump as a homebody who preferred to host associates in the comfort of a Trump Tower boardroom rather than go out to dinner. When he did dine out, Mr. Catsimatidis said, Mr. Trump was often in the company of one or two bodyguards, perhaps making him too conspicuous for the express lane at Whole Foods on 57th Street between Second and Third Avenues, four blocks from Trump Tower.
Mr. Trump has, at the very least, shown that he knows his way around a shopping cart. Last December, the president was photographed as he nudged a cart around a food distribution center in Utah, pointing at his bounty with a “can you believe this” look on his face and a grin before setting off through the facility.One of his handlers suggested he add a five-pound bag of potatoes to his cart: “These?” Mr. Trump asked of the potatoes, looking around for reassurance before giving no one in particular a thumbs up.
He also picked up and examined a can of food, holding it up and rotating it in his hands, seemingly fascinated.
Those who have studied Mr. Trump over the years were not willing to let him get away with the grocery gaffe so easily: “Donald Trump is 72 years old,” Tim O’Brien, a journalist who wrote a book about Mr. Trump, wrote on Twitter, “and he hasn’t bought his own groceries in 72 years.”
But the scrutiny surrounding the president’s grocery habits did not seem to faze Mr. Trump or aides in his White House, who have learned that Mr. Trump is immune to criticism from supporters on habits that would seem out of touch for anyone else. Mr. Trump has eaten pizza and Kentucky Fried Chicken with a fork and has tweeted a photograph of himself grinning over a “taco bowl” on Cinco de Mayo from his office in Trump Tower.
“I love Hispanics!” he wrote.
By now, the president and his aides know how to barrel forward by focusing on what Trump supporters care about: a wall, a job — maybe a space force.
On Wednesday, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, answered several questions on the topic by criticizing the news media for asking.
“I’m not sure,” Ms. Sanders told reporters when asked about the last time Mr. Trump had been to a grocery store. “I’m not sure why that matters, either.”
Ms. Sanders, when pressed, said that the president had been referring to buying beer and wine. (The president has said he does not partake in either vice.)
“He’s not saying every time he went in, he said when you go to the grocery store,” Ms. Sanders said, when she was pressed a third time. “I’m pretty sure that everybody in here who’s been to a grocery store that’s purchased beer or wine has probably had to show their ID. If they didn’t, then that’s probably a problem with the grocery store.”
Presumably an expert in all things regarding the checkout lane, Mr. Catsimatidis, the owner of Gristedes, did not see why critics were seizing on the president’s assertion that an ID was needed to buy groceries.
“You need a photo ID to buy groceries if you’re using a credit card or if you want to use a check,” Mr. Catsimatidis said. “Doesn’t that sound logical?”
Past presidents have also faced charges of out-of-touch, knife-and-fork elitism.
President George Bush was teased for not knowing how to work a grocery store scanner — in his defense he was actually marveling over the newfangled technology — during his failed campaign for re-election in 1992. President Barack Obama was once heckled by Sean Hannity, Mr. Trump’s favorite human megaphone, for ordering Dijon mustard (too fancy!) on a cheeseburger. Even Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s current personal lawyer who once had Oval Office ambitions, made headlines in 2007 when it was clear he had no idea how much a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk might cost a consumer.