Trump’s Violent Tongue
Elections & Politics Policy Brief #100 | By: Abigail Hunt | October 11, 2023
Photo taken from: businessinsider.com
Like the plot point in the hellscape of a dystopian novel, Trump’s Truth Social network provides users a soapbox for vitriol and calls for violence. Trump himself is most guilty of using it in this matter. Recently, Trump’s criticisms of outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, peaked with the former President stating that Milley’s call to China following the January 6th insurgency was “an act so egregious that, in times gone by, the punishment would have been DEATH.”
This is not a new tactic – Trump’s called for Milley – a veteran of multiple wars who has served the U.S. in no less than nine foreign nations – to be tried for treason in the past. Trump’s outcry is pure hypocrisy, since his own administration ordered Milley to make that phone call and is himself accused of treasonous crimes. Milley is an outspoken and open Trump decrier, and as the top military official in the nation, his opinion carries weight. When threatened, Trump goes on the offensive with the basest form of communication – insults. When those insults cross the line into threats, we need to pay attention. How dangerous is it for Trump to use such loaded language of violence?
NBC News reported that the comments of several of Trump’s Truth Social supporters, made on his post about Milley, are violent, calling for a firing squad and execution. Trump’s vitriolic history includes suggesting we shoot immigrants in the legs and mocking Paul Pelosi, 82, whose skull was fractured by a middle-aged right-wing assailant, David DePape, in October 2022, when DePape broke into the Pelosi California home. Pelosi suffered a fractured skull and serious injuries to his hands and right arm. The New York Times reported DePape, 42, was “looking to interrogate” Nancy Pelosi, Paul’s wife and Speaker of the House, as follows:
“on an unspecified political matter, according to the federal complaint. If she told the ‘truth,’ he would let her go, but if she “lied,” he intended to break her “kneecaps,” forcing her to be wheeled into Congress as a lesson to other Democrats.”
Trump’s propensity for bragging about his own violent behavior is well documented. It has been 18 years since the 2005 audio recording made of Trump talking to Billy Bush from Access Hollywood on the set of “Days of Our Lives.” In the infamous recording, Trump said, “Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything,” in his bragging about getting away with sexually assaulting strangers thanks to his wealth and position.
In August 2017, far-right protestors descended on Charlottesville to protest the removal of a Confederate statue. Trump was interviewed in the aftermath of the violence that erupted and was quoted as saying there were “very fine people” on both sides of the protest. It is widely believed that Charlottesville was a lead-up to the 2021 Capitol debacle, and many of the protestors were there in Trump’s name.
Trump’s incitement of violent protestors, on January 6th, 2021, was dangerous. As an outgoing President of a faction already shown to be prone to violence, to actively encourage violent unrest should be considered treasonous, because it is. Rather than allowing Trump to glorify and incite violence without repercussion, he should be held accountable for his words. Even children know and understand not to “shout ‘fire!’ in a theater and walk away.” When we allow a politician to incite violence, we enter the realm of fascism.
Following the January 2021 raid on the Capitol, Georgetown Law’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection produced a fact sheet on “threats and incitement to violence related to the election.” The fact sheet states that the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which offers protections for freedom of speech and religion, does not protect any of the following:
- violent or unlawful conduct
- speech that incites imminent violence or lawlessness
- threats of violence, stalking, or harassing people
- crimes of violence intended to intimidate and coerce (considered terrorism under many states’ laws).
Thus, Trump’s rhetoric is not protected speech. A review of 2016 voters in the Presidential election shows that 52 percent of Trump’s supporters were male. The violent rhetoric sold men on Trump, but why? It is possible that if we find the answer to that question, it may point us in the direction of our healing.