Stop talking about Trump’s weight

The problem with the pile-on.

President Donald Trump CREDIT: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
President Donald Trump CREDIT: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

President Donald Trump is a racist who, just days ago, reportedly called majority-black countries “shitholes.” He is intent on undermining the First Amendment. He is a liar and a right-wing extremist whose only major policy achievement is a tax overhaul that hikes taxes on the middle class in favor of the wealthy and large corporations. More than a dozen women have accused him of sexual misconduct.

Trump’s presidency is built on afflicting the afflicted and comforting the comfortable. He and his policies deserve scrutiny, skepticism, questioning, debunking, protesting, and takedowns — his weight, on the other hand, does not. Focusing on his size is a distraction from all of the other pressing issues with his presidency, and doesn’t hurt Trump nearly as much as it hurts anyone else who is fat, uncomfortable in their own skin, or struggling with their body image in any way.

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On Tuesday, White House physician Dr. Ronny Jackson briefed the press on Trump’s recent physical, revealing Trump’s height and weight. Members of the press and other White House-watchers seized on the opportunity to share their opinions about whether Jackson was telling the truth about Trump’s health. It quickly became a pile-on.

Brian Beutler, the editor in chief of Crooked Media, a new media company founded by three former Obama staffers, compared Trump’s body to “expertly fluffed mashed potato.”

CNN’s Jake Tapper shared a thread on Twitter describing Trump as the “third heaviest president in history” along with pictures of Presidents Taft and Cleveland, apparently as proof they were heavy men.

A meme quickly took off comparing images of Trump to professional athletes, an attempt to prove Jackson was lying about Trump’s weight, despite the fact that that isn’t how height and weight and muscle and fat work at all. Sports Illustrated ran a whole story with unflattering photos of the president alongside athletes, saying, “You can’t teach size, the old adage goes.”

If Trump’s physician were lying about his weight, it’s worth addressing and adding to the long list of things about which the Trump administration is comfortable lying to the American public. Engaging in speculation may be tempting, but there is no proof that Jackson is lying. Former senior adviser to Obama David Axelrod tweeted Tuesday evening that he knew Jackson while working in the White House and that the doctor was a “very good guy and straight shooter.”

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And the reaction Tuesday wasn’t about lying at all. Many people took advantage of the moment to express their disgust with a man’s body and knew they could get away with it simply because that man is widely disliked (and often deservedly).

Others will argue that Trump is quick to make fun of the appearances of people he doesn’t like. He defended himself against accusations of sexual assault saying, “Look at her… I don’t think so.” He tweeted that MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski was “bleeding badly from a face-lift.” He hit North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un as “short and fat.” But stooping to his level serves no one.

And, as Vox reporter Zack Beauchamp so rightly put it Tuesday on Twitter, “The president won’t see your dunks, but lots of fat people will, and they’ll learn that you hate and are disgusted by their bodies.”

The point is: Stop talking about Trump’s weight. Stop comparing his body to other bodies. Stop speculating about his health. It’s a distraction, and it’s needlessly hurting many people who have done nothing wrong.