Trump Denial Machine: Good enough for Government work
Professor of Sociology
Eastern Oregon University
Trump Denial Machine: Good enough for Government work
It’s been a busy week for the president, between his daily routine of 4-8 hours of watching himself on TV (which he denies), to more public accusations of sexual predation (which he denies), to demanding that the Washington Post’s David Weigel be fired for a misleading private tweet (something Trump knows a thing or two about), to selling a a ‘middle class tax cut’ that rewards GOP donors, ignores offshore tax shelters that rob $70 billion from the treasury, and punishes Trump’s many enemies (not even Sonny Perdue’s USDA would approve that legislative sausage for human consumption), to playing his misogyny card in a bully/sluttweet of NY Senator Kirsten Gillibrand that would get a middle schooler suspended (GOP yawns publicly), to a morning tweet suggesting he knew all along Roy Moore couldn’t win (perhaps his robo calls to Alabamans were part of his Machiavellian self-fulfilling prophecy?).
With all that activity, how’s a president going to get in a round of golf (he’s managing)??
Since the president has seen fit to jump into the fray on sexual predation and demand Senator Al Franken resign, I decided to collect some official White House denials from a handful of his (so far) 19 accusers. These accusers span several decades and wives. And the stories are remarkably consistent. As Trump said, in inadvertently explaining his MO to Billy Bush: ‘I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ‘em by the pussy. You can do anything.’ He has since questioned the veracity of his voice in that quote.
But there is something to be learned from the Trump White House denials. First, what they really say about the president’s character, and second, the rhetorical strategies and contortions his staff—some of them women—must undergo daily in defense of the indefensible. In some cases the strategy is simply ‘bullshit,’ which philosopher Harry Frankfurt has characterized as worse than lying, as a wanton disregard for the truth (liars at least misdirect because they have some sense of the truth they seek to conceal). Other strategies include indirect personal attacks, often with a little political chaser for the dogwhistle-ready base of neo-nazis, high school graduates, and Fox News oxymorons:
“Mr. Trump strongly denies this phony allegation by someone looking to get some free publicity . . . . It is totally ridiculous.” Hope Hicks (double whammy: being accused of publicity hounding, and ridicule-without-explanation)
“These accusations have no merit and have already been disproven by many other individuals who were present . . . . When you see questionable attacks like this magically put out there in the final month of a presidential campaign, you have to ask yourself what the political motivations are and why the media is pushing it.” (conspiracy narrative [you takin’ notes, Alex?], fake news justification for future accusations)
“Mr. Trump never heard of this woman and would never do that.” Hope Hicks (floosiness: Now it’s ‘Mr. Trump’ and ‘this woman’, straight out of Bill Clinton’s playbook. And never never never—from no less than a PR professional/character witness)
“None of this ever took place.” Donald Trump (Absolutism—‘why keep asking me?? None, never, ever, especially not the tongue down the throat bit. I’m a germaphobe dontcha know!’)
“This story is totally false and ridiculous. The picture is one of thousands taken out of respect for people asking to have their picture taken with Mr. Trump . . . Mr. Trump does not know this person, does not remember this person, and would have no interest in ever knowing her.” (publicity hounding, yet who can blame her?—the only real evidence here? That Mr. Trump has thousands of fans, and no interest in ever knowing any who he can’t remember)
“It is disheartening that one has to dignify a response to the below absurd query . . . . Mr. Trump denies each and every statement made by Ms. Harth as these 24-year-old allegations lack any merit or veracity.” Michael Cohen (‘below absurd’—even pond scum gets better ratings! And ‘merit’ and ‘veracity’ soze you know I’mza lawyer. One hates to see his faith in humanity and integrity so shaken, though. SAD!)
“There is no way that something like this would have happened in a public place on Mother’s Day at Mr. Trump’s resort . . . . It would have been the talk of Palm Beach for the past two decades.” (the impossiblility / What-happens-in-Palm-Beach theorem . . . especially on Mother’s Day!!)
“Why didn’t the writer of the twelve year old article in People Magazine mention the ‘incident’ in her story. Because it did not happen!” Donald Trump (Yes, People really lowered the bar for investigative journalism on that one …)
“Totally false.” Hope Hicks (Hope yer getting a sense of Ms. Hick’s job duties)
“You’re talking about the frontrunner for the GOP, presidential candidate, as well as a private individual who never raped anybody.” Michael Cohen (Mr. Cohen might have dodged a bullet on that one. To paraphrase Dr. Frankenstein: Look at that face! He couldn’t harm a flea!)
I vaguely remember Ms. Zervos as one of the many contestants on The Apprentice over the years . . . . To be clear, I never met her at a hotel or greeted her inappropriately a decade ago. That is not who I am as a person, and it is not how I’ve conducted my life. In fact, Ms. Zervos continued to contact me for help, emailing my office on April 14 of this year asking that I visit her restaurant in California.” Donald Trump (In the ‘kind of person’ category: Only person with seven bankruptcies who starred as a successful business guru on a . . . reality TV show. And ‘that woman? One of the countless spurned fans. She did look hot on TV today, didn’t she? Believe me. Ask any of my wives what kind of a person I am’)
If the press spent more time watching what these amateur vandals are doing to destroy government’s capacity to solve problems for non-corporate entities, and less time paying attention to a leaky, crudely fashioned bullshit machine (an unfortunate by-product of which is ratings gold), Trump’s public disgrace might not hinge on the patience of shadowy Russians with Putin connections.
Wait a minute . . .