Unapologetic Apology

donald-trump-megyn-kellyI generally steer clear of political discussions on this blog. And it is not my intent to wade into political discussions in this post. However, as a blogger who frequently posts on the topic of abuse, I find Donald Trump’s recent interview with Megyn Kelly to be very troubling.

For the past several months, we’ve seen Donald Trump’s response to anyone who challenges him as typically being a personal derogatory attack, often of a vulgar demeaning nature. This is a troubling behavior pattern for anyone in a position of authority and especially for the apparent Republican Party presidential nominee. Trump’s supporters (and Trump himself) seem to brush such concerns aside as simple strategy for the rough-and-tumble party nomination politics. They say Trump’s behavior will become more conciliatory and less abrasive as he moves toward the general election.

Maybe so…or maybe not…

Even more troubling to me, than the demeaning attacks of the early campaign stages, is Trump’s supposed attempts at reconciliation. Here is a recent excerpt from an interview with Megyn Kelly, intended as a reconciliation after Trump’s very derogatory remarks about Kelly, across several months (USA Today, May 18, 2016):

During the FOX Broadcasting special Megyn Kelly Presents, Trump told Kelly that he expected she had gotten some pretty nasty tweets from his supporters when the two of them were in the middle of their spat. But he chalked it up to fans just showing their loyalty.

Kelly responded that it wasn’t just supporters who Trump retweeted. Over the past nine months the Fox reporter has been attacked repeatedly by Trump himself, as well as his followers via Twitter.

“You would be amazed at the ones I don’t retweet,” Trump said.

“Bimbo?” Kelly asked, referring to tweets that had appeared on Trump’s Twitter timeline calling her a bimbo.

“Well that was a retweet, yeah. Did I say that?” Trump asked.

“Many times,” Kelly said.

“Oh, okay excuse me,” Trump said. “Not the most horrible thing … Over your life Megyn, you’ve been called a lot worse. Isn’t that right? Wouldn’t you say?”

For myself, and likely for others who have dealt with abusers, Trump’s language here is full of red flags. In fact, his tactics clearly illustrate classic abuser default behavior patterns. Let’s break it down:

Trump told Kelly that he expected she had gotten some pretty nasty tweets from his supporters when the two of them were in the middle of their spat. But he chalked it up to fans just showing their loyalty.

Trump knows the primary purpose of the interview is to publicly reconcile issues between the two of them and demonstrate his ability to build interrelational bridges. As such, he understands he is expected to produce conciliatory language. But look at how he broaches the topic. He takes no personal responsibility for any of the verbal attacks on Kelly. Rather, he sloughs it off as overzealous supporters being a bit too defensive.

Kelly responded that it wasn’t just supporters who Trump retweeted. Over the past nine months the Fox reporter has been attacked repeatedly by Trump himself, as well as his followers via Twitter.

Good for Kelly! She calls Trump on his blame shifting, holding him accountable for his own repeatedly derogatory language across an extended time frame.

“You would be amazed at the ones I don’t retweet,” Trump said.

Classic minimizing tactic! Trump is attempting to make his offensive behavior seem less bad by comparing it to potentially worse behavior. Classic deflection…minimizing offensive behavior while shifting the topic away from the real issue of unacceptable behavior.

“Bimbo?” Kelly asked, referring to tweets that had appeared on Trump’s Twitter timeline calling her a bimbo.

Bravo to Kelly for keeping the conversation on topic! She did not fall for Trump’s redirection. Rather she pulled him back to the topic of personal accountability for his own abusive words.

“Well that was a retweet, yeah. Did I say that?” Trump asked.

Again, Trump plays the deflection and blame-shifting tactic. First he says it was a retweet, as though that somehow makes it okay. [Those weren’t my words. Somebody else said that. All I did was publicly repeat them numerous times.] Then he calls into question whether he actually said that, while knowing full well he did say it. In fact, his having said these things is exactly why this interview is taking place and why he broached the topic to begin with. Yet, when it comes time to apologize for his atrocious behavior and hurtful demeaning verbal attacks, instead he acts like it never even happened, “Did I say that?”

“Many times,” Kelly said.

Yay, Kelly! Way to go! She continues to calmly state the truth without letting herself react negatively to Trump’s denials, deflection, and blame-shifting.

“Oh, okay excuse me,” Trump said. “Not the most horrible thing … Over your life Megyn, you’ve been called a lot worse. Isn’t that right? Wouldn’t you say?”

And there you have it! After repeated attempts to shift the blame to someone else…to redirect…to minimize…to outright deny he even said it…as Kelly continues to hold him accountable for his own abusive language…this is the closest Trump comes to even admitting he did anything, much less apologizing for his behavior. A half-hearted sarcastic “Oh, okay, excuse me,” followed by yet another minimization.

Anything anyone else may or may not have said to Kelly across the course of her life is totally irrelevant! The relevant topic is what Trump said about Kelly.

And note how he follows the minimization with a question designed to elicit a positive response, “Over your life Megyn, you’ve been called a lot worse. Isn’t that right? Wouldn’t you say?” A positive response requires a change of body language, resulting in a change of posture. Again, it is a classic strategy designed to close the subject…to get Kelly to agree…so they can move to another topic while leaving the appearance that everything is resolved. Yet it resolved nothing. The only thing they agreed on is that Kelly has been called worse. That has absolutely nothing to do with Trump’s atrocious demeaning behavior toward Kelly!

This was not an apology. Rather it was both a continuation and an escalation of the abusive behavior Trump has exhibited toward Kelly for months. Except this was even worse…because this abusive behavior masqueraded as an apology and reconciliation.

Not once during the entire conversation did Trump ever take responsibility for his own words. Not once did he ever acknowledge his words were offensive, hurtful, or unacceptable. Not once did he acknowledge the lack of respect he exhibited toward Kelly, nor the false accusations he leveled against her. Not once did he recognize the hurt and harm his words and actions inflicted on Kelly. Not once did he apologize.

Folks, this is classic abuser behavior.

I don’t know much about Trump’s personal life. I’m not accusing him of anything beyond his exchange of words with Kelly. I am simply saying, this is an excellent example of classic abuser behavior. Trump is very fluent in abusereese.

I find that very troubling.

Your thoughts?

 

[Linked to Messy Marriage, Wild Flowers, Redeemed Life, Tell His Story ]

28 thoughts on “Unapologetic Apology

  1. The man is not only offensive, he rejoices in disrespect–at best,
    If his campaign has a virtue. it’s the inadvertent one of opening people’s eyes to danger.
    Thank you, Joseph, for aiding that process of recognition,

  2. Joe, I see the point you’re making, and while I’m not thrilled with everything about DT – to put it mildly – there are a couple of things to say in his defense.

    First, there’s no proof that he’s an abuser. He may use conversational and argumentative protocols that track with those used by abusers, but I don’t think it’s a definitive indicator of actually being an abuser. I worked with people in academia who did the same thing; it was a lousy way to deal with people, but I coud not say anything more.

    Second, we’re dealing with a hold-your-nose election in which we have to choose the lesser of two evils; not voting, or a symbolic third-party vote is a pretense, because it’s still effectively a vote for one side or the other.

    There’s a lot I don’t like about DT; but he did not wave away the men killed in Benghazi as there being “no lives lost in Libya under my watch”. I knew two of the men who died. What the former Secretary of State said was simply unforgivable – and she attended services for the ambassador and the dead IT dude.

    Also, DT opposes abortion, and our medical knowledge is simply not up to the job of determining ‘personhood’ and at least a kind of awareness in the womb. That fetuses flinch from the killing forceps should chill all of our souls.

    We can’t have the leader we want; but we have to accept the best we can get, and trust the Constitution to ensure that a candidate who tends toward demagoguery cannot, in fact, become a dictator.
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser recently posted…Your Dying Spouse 156 – Why Bother?My Profile

    • Like I said, it is not really my intent to wade into political debate (I know…an odd thing to say for a guy who just did a blog post critiquing the words of the apparent Republican Party presidential nominee).

      My intent is to point out an example of classic abuser language and behavior…while also expressing how troubling that is to me, personally, in a presidential candidate.

      I definitely understand your concerns with the overall political landscape for this presidential election…and the sense of feeling like there are no good choices.

      In regard to the question of whether or not Trump’s verbal tactics are reflective of his overall relational and/or management style, I don’t know the answer to that question…but am reminded of the words of Christ in Matthew 15:18, “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.”

      Thank you, Andrew! I always appreciate your input.
      joe recently posted…Unapologetic ApologyMy Profile

      • Yes, he has definitely used verbal abuse against those who have challenged him in this campaign.

        Verbal abuse is abuse. And most forms of abuse begin with verbal abuse.

        How far he carries the abusive tactics into the various areas of his life, I don’t know. However, given the prevalence of abusive tactics during this campaign combined with his unwillingness to take responsibility for his behavior even when supposedly ‘apologizing,’ it doesn’t look good.

        It is a very troubling behavior pattern for anyone in a position of authority…even more troubling for someone aspiring to the office of highest authority in the country.

        Thank you, Brandee!
        joe recently posted…Unapologetic ApologyMy Profile

  3. I’m in agreement with Andrew. There is a lot of heat to go around in this campaign for sure. The Donald might be loud, obnoxious and uncouth, but I can see a lot worse in other candidates. Reporters take flack and get called names!! It is unfortunate, but it comes with the territory. Reporters often lie, sad but true. This just isn’t the same as a relationship and I don’t think there are any deaths that can remotely be linked to DT. I can’t say that for other candidates. I am not excusing his behavior, but even his x wives have not accused him of abuse, that I know of.

    • “…I can see a lot worse in other candidates”

      That really doesn’t have anything to do with Trump’s behavior toward Kelly, though, does it?

      With Trump emerging as the apparent Republican nominee, there is a tendency to defend him as being better than the only obvious alternative. However, I intentionally (perhaps naively) limited the post to Trump’s behavior toward Kelly.

      Regardless of whether or not one plans to vote for Trump… regardless of one’s polticial views…regardless of one’s view of Trump’s political opponents…Trump’s behavior toward Kelly is inexcusable, and his supposed apology was anything but.

      I do agree that Trump’s former wives seem remarkably amiable toward him (from what little I know), which speaks surprisingly well.

      Nevertheless, in the specific instance of his behavior toward Kelly, I see his language and tactics as startlingly abusive.

      Thank you, Brenda! I appreciate your input!
      joe recently posted…Unapologetic ApologyMy Profile

  4. Abuse is using a position of power to manipulate and control others. In this case, DT HAS used his position to slander an innocent person and then continues to use typical tactics of manipulators (abusers) to skirt around his responsibility. I believe some of these comments simply reflect the general ignorance of society to what abuse really is. I AM voting for him so no need to sway me. He is the lesser of 2 evils for sure, but I appreciate, Joe, that you have pointed out tactics that we should ALL be aware of, for our own benefit and protection, presidential candidate or person in the grocery line. I fell for these “fake-ologies” for years from my abuser, always wondering but never understanding why it still didn’t FEEL like a real, sincere apology. Now I can spot abuser-ese a mile away and know how to respond without false guilt or getting pulled into the mind games.
    Debby recently posted…Unapologetic ApologyMy Profile

    • “I fell for these “fake-ologies” for years from my abuser, always wondering but never understanding why it still didn’t FEEL like a real, sincere apology.”

      That’s it, exactly! And I love your term “fake-ology.”

      Thank you, Debby!
      joe recently posted…Unapologetic ApologyMy Profile

  5. This is an excellent analysis. The hardest part of dealing with an abuser like this is thinking quickly on the spot. It’s taken me years to come up with responses in real time. Megyn did a good job of keeping the discussion on track.

    • Yes! Most abusers are so good at the diversion and deflection game. It’s easy to let them sidetrack the conversation…hard to stay focused enough to keep pulling it back.

      Megyn did an exceptional job, I think, of staying on topic as long as she did.
      joe recently posted…Unapologetic ApologyMy Profile

  6. Oh my word! Joseph, you’ve done an excellent job on this post. I don’t feel that you’ve taken any sides, but you have demonstrated something that we all should be concerned about – the behavior of a potential president. It pains me to read this. It already confirms what I know. What options will conservatives have in the fall? Are we to vote in someone who openly has no fear of God (based on past comments) and who never takes ownership for his behavior? Help, us Lord!
    Tiffiney (Welcome Home Ministry) recently posted…It Really Is a Good LifeMy Profile

  7. I find it disgusting. I worked for the Donald in the 80’s in South Florida – it saddens me that people chose him over a solid conservative, strict constitutionalist such as Ted Cruz…I heard someone smart say, “I don’t believe the culture of America, today, is capable of electing a moral, honorable person as their president. God help us.

  8. My hubby Gary told me about that interview and we both felt just as you did, Joe. This guy is such an insult to the presidential race. I have always voted conservatively, but can’t stomach the thought of voting for Trump. But then I keep thinking about America being like Israel in our 1st Samuel study. Trump or Clinton for that matter are our “king Saul” and it’s because Americans are quickly turning their backs upon God. It’s sad, but I know that God is still going to use it in some redemptive way for the good of His chosen ones. Thanks for your insights and making us aware of the glaring abusive speech in play here.

    • Yes, I too keep thinking of our current political landscape while studying 1 Samuel. It seems God chose for Israel the king they wanted, despite dire warnings. I keep feeling like America is choosing the leader our majority wants, despite dire warnings.
      joe recently posted…Unapologetic ApologyMy Profile

  9. I had heard about this interview, but wasn’t privy to the contents. I agree with your analysis, Joe. However, what that means with regard to my vote, I’m not sure yet. I think the ship may be sinking, but I’m not quite ready to jump. Prayer is the best weapon we have in our arsenal right now. I plan on firing ’till the end. Have a blessed, safe, weekend!

  10. I think there is an issue here. It is not that Americans can’t vote for a strong moral conservative. They are not going to have the money or get the funding to carry them through to the nomination. There are probably better candidates than Cruz, but they will never get to the point where they will be heard much less nominated. We are also not privy to all that is going on behind the curtain. Ben Carson claims that Donald is very different in person and one on one. I don’t know!! I know that my abuser would never act the way Trump does in public, but he was a monster behind closed doors. I never got an apology from him at all. Not even an unapologetic apology. I had to forgive him without one and move on. More times than not real abusers don’t act the way Trump does in public. I pray about the future of our country every day. We are sliding fast, but I have to wonder what past presidents were like. We didn’t have tv to judge them by. How many of the formers were just as bad or worse.

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