President Trump is Showing Signs of Dementia –Unproven!
Summary of eRumor:
Claims that President Trump is exhibiting signs of dementia in his speech and actions began circulating on social media in May 2017.
There’s no hard evidence that President Trump has exhibited signs of dementia or cognitive decline, and experts have warned that making such a diagnosis based on observations from afar is impossible to do.
Those rumors gained legs after STAT, and online publication by Boston Globe Media, published an analysis on May 23, 2017, President Trump’s changing speech patterns over the last 20 or so years:
Research has shown that changes in speaking style can result from cognitive decline. STAT therefore asked experts in neurolinguistics and cognitive assessment, as well as psychologists and psychiatrists, to compare Trump’s speech from decades ago to that in 2017; they all agreed there had been a deterioration, and some said it could reflect changes in the health of Trump’s brain.
The article cited range of experts on how President Trump’s speech patterns changed in interview that he gave in the 1980s compared to those that he gave in the 2010s. While all experts agreed that there were noticeable changes in Trump’s speech and use of vocabulary, there wasn’t any agreement about why, or exactly what that could mean.
One expert noted that the Trump could have changed his speech and vocabulary intentionally to appeal to a certain type of voter (although the author provides examples of Trump’s linguistic ticks showing up before he entered politics). Another expert noted that everyone’s brain experiences some form of deterioration by age 70, and Trump’s could be a normal result of aging rather than dementia or memory loss. One expert cited in the analysis sums up the findings:
John Montgomery, a psychologist in New York City and adjunct professor at New York University, said “it’s hard to say definitively without rigorous testing” of Trump’s speaking patterns, “but I think it’s pretty safe to say that Trump has had significant cognitive decline over the years.”
No one observing Trump from afar, though, can tell whether that’s “an indication of dementia, of normal cognitive decline that many people experience as they age, or whether it’s due to other factors” such as stress and emotional upheaval, said Montgomery, who is not a Trump supporter.
Because of the challenge (or impossibility) of diagnosing someone’s mental health or cognitive ability from afar that Montgomery describes, the American Psychiatric Association handed down the “Goldwater Rule” in 1973, which bars its members from making public statements on the mental health or mental fitness of politicians or other public figures without first sitting for an in-person diagnosis. The rule was named for GOP presidential candidate and Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, who successfully sued Fact magazine for publishing a survey of mental health professionals that showed more than 1,100 found Goldwater unfit for the presidency.
The American Psychiatry Association published a defense of the Goldwater Rule in August 2016 as the presidential race was ramping up, and new questions about the mental fitness of Trump and other candidates surfaced:
We live in an age where information on a given individual is easier to access and more abundant than ever before, particularly if that person happens to be a public figure. With that in mind, I can understand the desire to get inside the mind of a Presidential candidate. I can also understand how a patient might feel if they saw their doctor offering an uninformed medical opinion on someone they have never examined. A patient who sees that might lose confidence in their doctor, and would likely feel stigmatized by language painting a candidate with a mental disorder (real or perceived) as “unfit” or “unworthy” to assume the Presidency.
Simply put, breaking the Goldwater Rule is irresponsible, potentially stigmatizing, and definitely unethical.
The Goldwater Rule, however, won’t stop speculation about President Trump’s mental fitness, or future presidents for that matter. In fact, in May 2017, an awkward encounter between President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which Trump appeared disoriented and wandered away without shaking the prime minister’s hand:
WHAT IS GOING ON? pic.twitter.com/4RD5l09u6M
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) May 26, 2017
Some have noted, however, that the above video cuts off the end of President Trump’s exchange with Netanyahu. After initially walking away, Trump returned, shook Netanyahu’s hand, and told the crowd that he never mentioned “Israel” while disclosing classified information to Russian officials in a White House meeting:
Or Copy Code:
In the end, mental health professionals agree that there’s no way to gauge President Trump’s (or anyone else’s) mental health from afar. That’s why we’re calling this one “fiction.”