Do Inflammatory Comments from Politicians Actually Matter?

“Fat pigs,” “dogs,” “slobs,” “disgusting animals,” and now the very latest — “horseface.” Last week, President Trump referred to adult film star Stormy Daniels as “horseface” in a tweet after her defamation lawsuit was thrown out of court. Additionally, the court ruled Daniels’ would be forced to pay Trump’s legal fees. While the comments by Trump towards women are distasteful jokes at best, the landscape of American politics is becoming more uncivil by the minute and comments like this by the president are not helping. While Trump is not alone in bringing inflammatory rhetoric into the political sphere, the President would be wise to present better standards and think harder before speaking or tweeting. However, those who argue the language used by Trump here is unbecoming of a President should hold other politicians and public figures accountable when they refer to him as a “fear-mongering dictator,” “Agent Orange,” etc.

Stormy Daniels’ defamation lawsuit was a frivolous one from the start. The lawsuit was filed because of another Trump tweet, claiming Daniels was a “con artist.” Trump has claimed she lied about being threatened to stay quiet about their affair. U.S. District Judge Otero ruled Trump’s language was protected by the First Amendment since it was “rhetorical hyperbole,” which is common in political and public discourse. Michael Avenatti, Daniels’ lawyer, fired back at the President on Twitter, stating that Trump and Cohen’s fees would be significantly more than the ones Stormy would have to pay. This is just a recent example of the back-and-forth childish comments and arguments we have come to expect in the digital age of politics. With the expediency of Twitter and the 24 hour news cycle, politicians and public figures alike are equally guilty of making immature comments.

In the current age of politics, and especially since Trump’s election, I doubt anyone was genuinely shocked by the President’s comments about Stormy Daniels. The predictable outcome of a news story like this is as follows: radical members of the left get enraged and vow to remove Trump from office for disrespecting women, Trump supporters enjoy the spectacle and encourage more outlandish jokes and comments against dissenters, and finally we all forget in three or so days when another story develops and occupies our minds. While individuals on Twitter and mainstream media pour outrage against Trump for a news cycle, ultimately it has little to no impact on his image and nearly everyone in politics is as guilty of name calling as he is. That said, the outcome of the lawsuit shouldn’t warrant more of Trump’s attention and comments, especially so close to midterms when he should be focusing on accomplishments within his time in office, such as improvements to the country’s economy and employment rate.

Unsurprisingly, the President has a problem with raining on his own parade by resorting to thoughtless comments. Even before he stepped into the White House, Trump was known for having a blunt and offensive sense of humor. It should go without saying that the comment he made about Daniels was not productive, especially after the Kavanaugh hearings and the militarization of the #MeToo movement. The only audience this appeals to is his own base, and considering millennials’ overwhelming disapproval of Trump, it could potentially have greater implications on the midterms and 2020 election. Considering the Left is pushing for millennials to turn out in droves to the polls, a different approach may be beneficial in improving his reception among said demographic.

On the other hand, many conservatives and centrists have brushed off Trump’s comments as nothing more than thoughtless jokes on Twitter and left it at that. After all, what can one expect after voting a reality TV star into office? While I do sometimes wonder if Trump’s comments about women and other abrasive rhetoric are going to be problematic in the future, Trump might be able to earn a second term so long as the economy continues to flourish and jobs continue to be created. Conservatives who don’t associate with Trump’s base will continue to vote for him despite the undesirable rhetoric if they see results. Overall, the President’s comments about Stormy Daniels were naturally distasteful, but not unexpected. Ultimately, Trump’s comments will not have an effect on his image or his presidency whatsoever, and will most likely be forgotten in two weeks, since Trump has already made many inflammatory comments before and has emerged relatively unscathed.

Rebecca Rinaldi is a fourth year Criminology, Law and Society major. She can be reached at rinaldir@uci.edu.