Why the evasion of the “big elephant in the room?” President-elect Donald Trump is a chronic, pathological liar. This is no news-flash: PolitiFact reports that 96% of Mr. Trump’s political statements and allegations made over the course of the presidential campaign contained elements of falsehood, 70% of them primarily or totally false. But if that’s not troubling enough, it must be stated that Trump lies psychopathically.
How do psychopaths lie? They lie, as Trump does, with a staggering, shameless audacity. They lie, as Trump does, in jaw-dropping ways, evoking reactions of incredulity. Trump’s tweeting history itself, by now, constitutes a voluminous, textbook illustration of psychopathic audacity and dishonesty. Lying psychopaths will look you in the face and, with eerie composure, stubbornly maintain a preposterous lie that’s been inarguably exposed. With protean agility, they can deny, retract, reverse what they say (or have said), shift courses or positions in irreconcilable contradiction to the historical record because, just as they lack loyalty to (and can easily abandon) others who cease serving their purposes, they equally lack fidelity to their history of statements and positions the moment the latter prove inconvenient to maintain. For this reason, psychopathic liars can disown statements and positions as disposably as they can people they deem presently to be useless or, worse, liabilities in their lives. Unfortunately, this is not a testament to their flexibility, as some want to see in Mr. Trump, but to their emotional shallowness and Machiavellianism.
In interview after interview, various journalists have exposed Trump’s psychopathically brazen deceptions, confronting him sometimes with soft pressure, but hesitant to confront his lies forcefully, directly. Consequently, he’s rarely been challenged to fully account for his monumental contempt for truthfulness. Let’s consider several telling examples of Mr. Trump’s psychopathic lying.
On February 14, 2000, Mr. Trump, interviewed by Matt Lauer, explained his decision to reject the Reform Party nomination, stating, “Well, you’ve got David Duke just joined—a bigot, a racist, a problem. I mean, this is not exactly the people you want in your party.” He was thus on record in 2000 as having been quite familiar with Mr. Duke and his white supremacist credentials, clearly repudiating him. But in a February 28, 2016 interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, invited to reject Mr. Duke’s endorsement of his Presidency, Trump replied, “Well, just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke. OK? I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So, I don’t know.” Tapper pressed, “OK. I mean, I’m just talking about David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan here, but…,” to which Trump, advancing his lie, repeated, “I don’t know any—honestly, I don’t know David Duke. I don’t believe I have ever met him. And I just don’t know anything about him.”
Trump is lying here with the distinctive audacity of the psychopath. Naturally he knew something about David Duke, because he’d clearly identified and disassociated himself from him years earlier. Watching a psychopath lying one marvels, as one must here, at the gas-lighting hubris necessary even to deign to negate reality as Mr. Trump strives. Mr. Tapper allows him to invoke his “feigned unawareness” stratagem, as Trump is wont to do whenever he prefers to efface history, especially his own, or just duck the truth.
Subsequently, Trump took similar refuge in his “feigned unawareness” tactic in a
60 Minutes interview on November 13, 2016 with Leslie Stahl. Ms. Stahl addressed the alarming climate and increasing spate of reported hate crimes Trump has eschewed responsibility for having incited with his provocative, high-voltage campaign rhetoric. But was he aware of them? He answered, “I don’t hear it—I saw, I saw one or two instances…but I think it’s a very small amount,” illustrating precisely the brazen prevaricating that is the province of psychopathic lying. Although Ms. Stahl declined to challenge him more aggressively, Trump was surely aware that hundreds of such acts had been reported, even if not all verified. Invited to address these bigots and racists, he replied, “I would say, ‘don’t do it…that’s terrible…,” the use of “would” subtly suggesting a theoretical response to a theoretical issue whose reality and significance he refused, manipulatively, to validate fully, but instead numerically diminished. These are the kinds of verbal machinations classically associated with psychopathic lying.
Similarly, at a 2016 campaign rally, Mr. Trump blustered, “Hey, I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down. And I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering.” This was another brazen, shameless lie. Trump couldn’t have watched this because it didn’t happen. Yet when George Stephanopoulos confronted the lie in a November 22, 2015 interview, Trump pronounced insistently, “It did happen. I saw it.” Stephanopoulos responded somewhat forcefully, replying, “Police say it didn’t happen.”
Now I cannot stress enough: Normal, non-psychopathic liars lack the shameless audacity, contempt and pathological grandiosity to sustain such a bald-faced, incendiary, false and slanderous claim, but not psychopathic liars like Trump who, ratcheting up his fiction, persisted, “There were people that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey, where you have large Arab populations. They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down…it was well covered at the time, George…there were people over in New Jersey that were watching it, a heavy Arab population, that were cheering as the buildings came down. Not good.”
Trump also expressed his pattern of psychopathic lying in his manipulative, scurrilous exploitation of specious doubts cast on the validity of President Obama’s citizenship. With callous disregard for the truth (and for President Obama), he mined the conspiratorial agenda of the “birther movement” right up until the day in 2011 Mr. Obama publicly produced his birth certificate. But it didn’t end there–his lust for chicanery unsated, Trump cynically continued fomenting doubts of its legitimacy. In a May 24th, 2012 Daily Beast interview, he stated, “A lot of people do not think it was an authentic certificate…His mother was not in the hospital. There are many other things that came out..,” shortly after which, in a May 29th, 2016 interview, he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, “An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that @BarackObama’s birth certificate is a fraud.” Not until September, 2015 did Trump, publicly, finally recognize the legitimacy of the President’s citizenship.
Now, shedding euphemisms and timidity, it’s time to recognize, finally, that the man elected President on November 8th is a psychopathic liar.