One of the most controversial portions of Donald Trump's impromptu press conference on Thursday occurred when he spoke in what many have said was a prejudice and patronizing manner to April Ryan. Ms. Ryan is a journalist and White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks. She who also happens to be African-American.
This post includes, first a partial transcript from that portion of the presser - followed by body language analysis.
TRUMP (continuing at 1:12:45): ....We have to help African American people that, for the most part, are stuck there. Hispanic [longer pause] American people. We have Hispanic American people that are in the inner cities - and they're living in hell. I mean, you look at the numbers - in Chicago. There are two Chicagos, as you know.
There's one Chicago that's [in]credible, luxurious and all - and safe. There's another Chicago that's worse than - almost any of the places in the Middle East that we talk about, and that you talk about every night on the newscasts. So, we're going to do a lot of work on the inner cities.
I have great people lined up to help with the inner cities. OK?
RYAN: Well, when you say the inner cities [tight tongue jut at 1:13:27] are you going - are you going to include the CBC, Mr. President [eyebrow flash x 2 at 1:13:30] in your conversations with your - your urban agenda, your inner city agenda, as well as -
DONALD TRUMP: Am I going to include who?
RYAN: Are you going to include the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional -
DONALD TRUMP: Well, I would. I tell you what, do you want to set up the meeting?
RYAN: - Hispanic Caucus -
DONALD TRUMP: Do you want to set up the meeting?
RYAN: No - no - no. I'm not -
DONALD TRUMP: Are they friends of yours?
RYAN: I'm just a reporter.
DONALD TRUMP: Well, then set up the meeting.
RYAN: I know some of them, but I'm sure they're watching right now.
DONALD TRUMP: Let's go set up a meeting. I would love to meet with the Black Caucus. I think it's great, the Congressional Black Caucus. I think it's great. Ummm [intermediate tongue jut at 1:13:53] I actually thought I had a meeting with Congressman Cummings and he was all excited. And then he said, well, I can't move, it might be bad for me politically. I can't have that meeting. I was all set to have the meeting. You know, we called him and called him. And he was all set. I spoke to him on the phone, very nice guy.
End of (Partial) Transcript, Analysis begins below:
During 1:13:26 (as April Ryan is saying, "Well, when you say"), Trump's mouth and the region around his mouth tightens (image immediately above). This very brief configuration of the mouth is similar to what an infant's face will display, just as he's about to spit out food he dislikes.
A second later, during 1:13:27 (as April Ryan is saying, "the inner cities"), Trump's eyelids almost completely close as he displays a "Tight Tongue Jut". A tight tongue jut is an indication of disdain, disgust and feelings of being repulsed by a person, thing or idea (e.g., "I want to spit it out").
President Trump displays another Tongue Jut during 1:13:53 just after he says, "I think it's great. Ummm" and just before he says, "I actually thought I had a meeting with Congressman Cummings and he was all excited". His mouth is not held as tightly this time - thus this tongue jut is intermediate between a "Tight Tongue Jut" and a "Loose Tongue Jut".
While a tight tongue jut indicates disdain, disgust and repulsion. A loose tongue jut indicates "I've been caught" or "I've been (or about to be) bad". Thus a loose tongue jut often is seen just prior to a lie being spoken. Intriguingly, this correlates with what Representative Cummings said shortly after President Trump made this statement. Cummings went on the record saying he, "... didn’t know why President Trump would make up a story about me like he did today."
Now lets go back a few seconds to when Ms. Ryan spoke this passage:
RYAN: Well, when you say the inner cities, are you going - are you going to include the CBC, Mr. President [see below] in your conversations with your - your urban agenda, your inner city agenda, as well as -
Just after she says the word, "President", Trump turns toward Ms. Ryan and displays two quick eyebrow flashes (during 1:13:30). An "eyebrow flash" is a very quick and brief upward movement of the eyebrows. There were also simultaneous partial (almost complete) eyelid closures. This points strongly to Trump not knowing what Ms. Ryan had meant when she used the acronym "CBC". Some people have suggested (including Ms. Ryan) that the President may not have heard her. However if, when a crucial word is not heard in the context of an important conversation, the eyebrows don't just flash - rather they stay elevated. And importantly, in such a scenario the eyelids don't move in the opposite direction of the eyebrows resulting in partial closure (e.g., eyelids moving down, while eyebrows moving up). This opposite motion dynamic is correlated with insincerity (as well as contempt and disgust).
Please watch this exchange at 1/2 speed and then at full speed to more fully appreciate this somewhat subtle and evanescent nonverbal display.
The implication that one black person must know all black people is certainly an example of prejudice. Such statements also indicate an overall low empathy quotient. Moreover, the dramatically out-of-context suggestion that Ms. Ryan should "set up a meeting" is both prejudice and patronizing.
Yet the specific reason - the trigger - which caused Mr. Trump to act in this manner and in this moment was precipitated by his desire to draw attention away from the fact he did not know what "CBC" had meant. It was as a loud, rude and prejudice act of misdirection in order to avoid this from being discovered.
Body Language Summary: Donald Trump displayed nonverbal signals of disdain, disgust and repulsion during this exchange with journalist April Ryan. President Trump's body language indicates he lied he spoke of Representative Cummings cancelling a meeting with him for political motives. Trump was unaware that "CBC" is an acronym for the Congressional Black Caucus.
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