By being first in line at a rally for President Donald Trump on Saturday, Gene Huber figured he’d earn some bragging rights among fellow Trump supporters.
By the end of the day, the 47-year-old car salesman had shared the stage with the president himself, appeared in interviews on CNN and Fox News — and found himself in some internet conspiracy theories.
On Sunday, a hoarse Huber was back home with his wife and two kids and a life-size cardboard cutout of Trump in a double thumbs-up pose. He was fielding media requests from Canada and England and preparing for another round of interviews today, including, he said, scheduled morning appearances on CNN and Fox News and a radio interview with a California station.
“Honestly I feel like a movie star,” Huber said.
Huber said he’s been a Trump fan from the moment the billionaire developer and reality TV star entered the race in June 2015. He liked Trump’s stances on trade and strengthening the military and the way the part-time Palm Beach resident “speaks from the heart.”
So when Trump scheduled a campaign-style rally 125 miles north in Melbourne, Huber was determined not only to attend but to be the first Trump supporter to show up.
“It was so important for me (to be first in line) because in our movement, for me to say that is an honor,” Huber said Sunday.
He made it to the rally site at Orlando-Melbourne International Airport at 4 a.m. Saturday — ahead of 9,000 other attendees and a solid 13 hours before the event’s scheduled starting time. Being first in line meant Huber was interviewed by several media outlets during the day.
When Griff Jenkins of Fox News asked him what he’d say to the president, Huber said: “I got here at 4 a.m., President Trump, for you…because I love our president.”
During the rally, Huber was near the front of the crowd when Trump singled him out about 20 minutes into his remarks.
“I saw this man on television just now — you,” Trump said, pointing to Huber. “I just saw him on television. He said ‘I love Trump. Let Trump do what he has to do.’ That’s my guy right there.”
As the crowd cheered, Trump beckoned Huber to the stage and told Secret Service agents to let him up. Huber bounded up and hugged the president, who encouraged him to say a few words.
“Mr. President, thank you, sir. We the people, our movement, is the reason why our president of the United States is standing in front of us today. When President Trump during the election promised all these things that he was going to do for us, I knew he was going to do this for us,” Huber said.
“A star is born,” Trump said as Huber left the stage and the crowd chanted “U.S.A! U.S.A!”
Mobbed by reporters afterward, Huber did a live interview with CNN in which he mentioned the life-size Trump cutout in his home.
“I’ve got a 6-foot cardboard box of President Trump in my house and I salute that every single day, and I pray and tell him ‘Mr. President, I prayed for your safety today.’ And I’m not lying. I do that every single day to the president, but it’s cardboard,” Huber told CNN’s Pamela Brown.
CNN is routinely slammed by Trump and his supporters, and Huber concluded the interview by urging the network to “just be a little, little nicer to our president.”
Huber also did a Saturday night interview on the more Trump-friendly Fox News with Brian Kilmeade, then was driven by the network from Melbourne to a studio in Orlando Sunday for a 7 a.m. appearance on “Fox & Friends.”
By then, Huber was aware of suggestions on the internet that Trump’s summoning of him from the crowd had been pre-arranged.
Huber’s Facebook page includes recent posts in which he tagged his location as “Trump Winery” and “The White House” and on Feb. 14, he posted a picture of an iPhone screen that says “Donald Trump is calling you.”
The posts were all jokes, Huber said.
“I just post stuff about Donald Trump. When it says to tag your location, I just pick any Trump place,” Huber said in an interview.
On “Fox & Friends,” Huber said: “I’m hearing from the left that this was planted, that President Trump made this to happen on purpose, like we set this up. No, it didn’t. It did not happen.”
Then he used his moment in the spotlight to address Trump directly.
“President Trump, I want to thank you so much for that opportunity that you did for me,” Huber said. “That just shows us, we the people and our movement, that you care about us, the American people.”