CNN commentators have raised the possibility – without offering any medical proof whatsoever – that President Donald Trump may have “early on-set dementia,” leading Trump supporters to echo the president’s accusations that the network is biased against him.
“Only possible defensible explanation for Trump’s disgusting, unpresidential, narcissistic behavior, would be early-on-set dementia. Maybe,” CNN political commentator Ana Navarro wrote on Twitter on August 22. The Huffington Post reported that Navarro was referring to Trump’s Phoenix, Arizona speech.
That’s not the first insult that Navarro has hurled Trump’s way, of course. “Defensive 71-year-old man baby having a disrespectful tantrum over the way he was treated over #Charlottesville. Someone bring him a bottle?” she also tweeted recently.
The Independent described Navarro as “a Republican strategist who broke ranks and endorsed Hillary Clinton last year.”
CNN Anchor Don Lemon, in an opinion response to Trump’s lengthy speech in Phoenix Arizona, then mentioned the Navarro tweet on the air. Lemon also raised questions about Trump’s stability and “fitness for office,” and said he was lying, called him “unhinged,” “petty,” and a “child.”
That has some on social media joining Trump in accusing the network of showing bias to him, while some Trump opponents have passed the dementia idea around social media.
This isn’t the first time that Trump opponents have suggested Trump might have dementia. A video titled “Is Trump Suffering From Dementia?” by the David Pakman Show has had more than 1 million views on YouTube. According to The New York Times, Navarro “is often identified as a ‘confidante’ of Jeb Bush or a ‘Republican strategist.'”
The CNN commentators’ floating of the dementia narrative comes after CNN host Brian Stelter revealed that CNN journalists discuss whether Trump is fit to be president off the air and after Trump accused the media of creating false narratives against him. “Usually after the microphones are off, or after the stories are filed, after the paper has been put to bed, people’s concerns, and fears and questions come out,” Stelter said, according to Fox News. “… Questions like these: Is the president of the United States a racist? Is he suffering from some kind of illness? Is he fit for office? And if he’s unfit, then what?”
Lemon also delivered a scorching monologue against Trump after Trump’s Phoenix speech, in which the president spent many minutes criticizing the media for showing bias to him, including CNN. On Twitter, there was wide disagreement about Trump’s speech, with Trump supporters praising it and Trump supporters criticizing it. Some simply noted that Trump seemed to have reverted to a campaign-style speech and rally.
Geraldo Rivera responded to the Stelter story by writing on Twitter, “Led by @brianstelter the #CNN brain trust has taken up the banner of the furthest left @realDonaldTrump is not just wrong-he’s a mental case.”
In February, NPR ran an article by New York writer Bret Stetka, arguing that Trump should be tested for Alzheimer’s Disease. “At 70, Trump is the oldest American president to ever take office. Couple his age with a family history of dementia — his father Fred developed Alzheimer’s disease in his 80s — and one could argue that the question of baseline cognitive testing for the U.S. head of state has taken on new relevance,” the article read.
The Washington Post has noted positive reasons to think Trump will maintain his health, despite his age, writing, “unlike the fitness fanatic whom he follows into the White House, Trump apparently has never smoked tobacco. He doesn’t drink alcohol. And as a wealthy American, he has presumably spent much of his life with access to excellent health care.”
The Post also highlighted the enormous stress of the presidency, noting, “Presidents, who seem to age before our eyes, die earlier than their peers, according to a 1992 book, ‘The Mortal Presidency: Illness and Anguish in the White House,’ that looked at 32 modern leaders.”
In May, Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough, whose personal feud with Trump has made headlines, discussed Trump and dementia on the air, saying, “I’m not saying Donald Trump has dementia. But my mother has dementia. She lives in the moment. She forgets what she said a day ago, a week ago. We can’t have presidents like that. And I’m not saying he has dementia, I will leave that to his physician to figure out.”
The health of both candidates came up during the campaign because of Trump’s age (he’s 71) and because of Hillary Clinton’s health issue and near collapse at a 911 memorial ceremony. Trump’s doctor proclaimed him in excellent health, and Trump declared his own health excellent, but he was criticized for not releasing full medical records during the campaign.
There has been no medical proof offered whatsoever that Trump actually has early onset Alzheimer’s, which can cause symptoms like withdrawal from work, problems with words, changes in mood, and trouble understanding visual images.
Trump opponents have also raised the prospect of using the 25th Amendment to remove him from office, something that would be exceptionally difficult if not impossible with Republicans controlling Congress.
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Cal) wrote on Twitter after the Phoenix speech, “Describing @POTUS as unhinged at today’s press conference is kind. This is scary. #25thAmendment.”