CNN violence row: ‘Donald Trump is not well’
President Trump posted a video yesterday in which he punches a figure whose head is the CNN logo. Earlier two TV presenters had published an article calling him “unmoored” and “not well”.
Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski had just finished mocking President Donald Trump on their MSNBC TV show, Morning Joe.
Soon afterwards, Trump angrily tweeted about “Low I.Q. Crazy Mika” and “Pyscho Joe”. He falsely said Brzezinski had been “bleeding badly” from plastic surgery when he saw her around New Year’s Eve.
His words received a huge backlash, including from his own party. “This isn’t normal,” wrote Republican senator Ben Sasse.
On Friday, Scarborough and Brzezinski responded in a joint opinion piece in The Washington Post titled “Donald Trump is not well.” They said that they were not personally insulted by the tweets, but they were concerned about “whether this man is fit to be president,” as he was no longer “capable of keeping his worst instincts in check.”
Over the weekend, Trump defended his right to say what he likes on Twitter, calling it “modern day presidential”.
And then yesterday Trump posted a short video to his Twitter account in which he is portrayed wrestling and punching a figure whose head has been replaced by the logo for CNN.
The video, about 28 seconds long, appears to be an edited clip from a years-old appearance by Trump in WrestleMania, an annual professional wrestling event. The clip ends with an onscreen restyling of the CNN logo as “FNN: Fraud News Network”.
For months, pundits have been diagnosing him from afar with everything from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) to dementia, although there has been no official diagnosis of either. This is partly because it is against US psychiatry’s code of ethics to diagnose public figures without a one-on-one evaluation.
Others have warned against such statements. “He may be a world-class narcissist, but this doesn’t make him mentally ill,” wrote professor Allen Frances, who has worked on the publication of diagnostic manuals on mental disorders like NPD.
Mad or bad?
“Look at what’s in front of you,” say many observers. Something is not right with Trump. He lashes out when angry. He seems incapable of distinguishing fact from fiction. This behaviour cannot simply be ignored in the man with the most powerful job in the world. Politicians should start thinking seriously about the 25th amendment.
“You can’t jump to conclusions,” caution others. It is impossible to know how much of all of this is part of an act for the general public. Erratic, angry behaviour does not mean that someone has a mental illness, and saying otherwise distorts our impression of the people who actually do. As Frances put it: “Trump causes severe distress, rather than experiencing it.” America has got what it voted for; if it has changed its mind, it must express that in the next election.
- Is Donald Trump unwell?
- Should mental health professionals be allowed to diagnose public figures without meeting them?
- Class debate: “This house believes that Donald Trump should not be allowed to use Twitter.”
- Put together a psychological profile of Trump, based on his first six months as president. What do you conclude?
Some People Say...
“Power always makes people a little bit crazy.”
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- Trump’s behaviour, particularly on Twitter, is highly unusual for a president. Only yesterday, he posted a short video which showed him wrestling a CNN avatar. He has also repeatedly insulted people who disagree with him, and labelled demonstrably true statements as false.
- What do we not know?
- Whether any of that makes him mentally ill or unfit to be president of the USA. No psychiatrist who has done a one-on-one assessment of Trump has ever gone public with their results — and theories based on his public behaviour can only ever be guesswork. There is an ongoing debate among mental health professionals about whether they should be allowed to make public statements about his mental state. Some say it is unethical to do so; others say it would be unethical to remain silent.
- They had been talking about a fake Time magazine cover which praises the president. It had been spotted in several of Trump’s golf courses.
- The TV hosts said Trump was not mentally fit to watch their show; that the White House had attempted to blackmail them; and that the tweets were part of Trump’s “unrelenting assault on women”.
- Narcissistic Personality Disorder
- Symptoms include an inflated sense of self-importance, a lack of empathy, and a need for admiration.
- Some have compared interviews with Trump in the 1980s and 90s to suggest that his speech and mental facilities have deteriorated with age.
- Code of ethics
- The American Psychiatry Association introduced the “Goldwater Rule” after hundreds of psychiatrists publicly declared the presidential candidate Barry Goldwater “psychologically unfit”. He later sued them for libel.
- 25th amendment
- An amendment to the constitution which states that the vice-president and cabinet can remove the president from office if he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office”.