On Tuesday night, a pair of disturbing new reports suggested that President Donald Trump has been conspiratorial and detached from reality in private.
And on Wednesday morning, the president helped corroborate those reports in public — with his Twitter account.
Stories from the New York Times and Washington Post suggested that Trump has continued to voice old conspiracy theories that President Barack Obama’s birth certificate could be fake, and that he was the rightful winner of the popular vote in 2016.
Perhaps more disturbingly, they report that Trump has also attempted to deny the reality of the Access Hollywood tape in which he was recorded bragging that he liked to grab women “by the pussy.”
Then, Trump decided to start off his day Wednesday by retweeting inflammatory anti-Muslim videos from a bigoted British group, and by spreading unsourced conspiracy theories and rumors about an MSNBC host and an NBC executive.
Even for a president with no shortage of ugly behavior in the past, it’s a particularly ugly turn — raising serious questions about his fitness for office.
The New York Times’s Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Martin reported that, according to people who have spoken to the president privately, he has continued to regularly make a series of false, conspiratorial claims. These include:
- That President Obama’s birth certificate might not be authentic
- That he only lost the popular vote in the 2016 election because of widespread voter fraud
- That the Access Hollywood tape in which Trump himself was recorded saying he liked to grab women “by the pussy” might have been faked somehow
That last bit was also confirmed by the Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey, Ashley Parker, and Philip Rucker, who wrote that Trump would wonder “aloud whether perhaps the tape was doctored or edited.”
Some of these claims aren’t new — Trump, of course, first entered the political arena by advancing conspiratorial claims that President Obama might not have born in the United States. He reversed himself on this last year during the campaign, though — but it now appears his reversal was less than sincere.
Trump’s claim about the popular vote, too, is something we’ve heard about before — indeed, he brought it up during his first meeting with congressional leaders after he was sworn in as president back in January.
Denying the obvious reality of a tape recording of him, though, appears to be a new level of conspiracy theorizing.
Trump’s Wednesday morning tweets took the mask off
First of all, if there were any naïve or credulous souls remaining out there who doubted that the president is deeply bigoted against Muslims, Trump decided to set those doubts to rest once and for all.
He did so by retweeting three videos posted by Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of a far-right and anti-Muslim British political group. Fransen described the videos — each less than a minute long — as follows:
- “VIDEO: Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!”
- “VIDEO: Muslim Destroys a Statue of Virgin Mary!”
- “VIDEO: Islamist mob pushes teenage boy off roof and beats him to death!”
Fransen herself has been convicted in the UK of religiously aggravated harassment of a Muslim woman. The videos she tweeted, and that Trump retweeted, are of uncertain provenance.
Then, Trump quickly pivoted to his next top priority: spreading rumors and conspiracy theories about his critics in the media.
To do so, he crowed about NBC’s firing of Matt Lauer for “inappropriate sexual behavior,” and then lobbed vague accusations against NBC News Chair Andy Lack and MSNBC host Joe Scarborough:
The latter reference is likely to an incident that occurred back when Scarborough was serving in Congress — Lori Klausutis, a 28-year old office worker, was found dead at his Scarborough’s district office in Florida in 2001.
A medical examiner’s report found that Klausutis died after she passed out due to an abnormal heart rhythm, fell, and hit her head on her desk.
But there have been conspiracy theories about the matter for years — and as mentioned, the president loves spreading completely uncorroborated conspiracy theories.
It’s ugly, it’s unpresidential — and it’s nothing new for Donald Trump.