Is first-son elect Barron Trump autistic? Melania Trump thinks that’s none of our business, and she’s right. Just because so many of us find Donald Trump and the hard-right, white nationalists surrounding him abhorrent doesn’t give us the right to home in on his son.
There’s a viral video going around that asks, “Is Barron Trump Autistic?” And with help from Donald Trump’s longtime nemesis Rosie O’Donnell, over three million people have watched it. Last week, the actress and comedienne took her Twitter war with the president-elect too far, when she sent out a tweet on the 10-year-old’s alleged autism with a link to the video.
‘Barron Trump Autistic? if so – what an amazing opportunity to bring attention to the autism epidemic.’
Now TMZ reports Melania Trump is “outraged” and has hired a lawyer.
‘Melania Trump has hired a famous lawyer who is now threatening a lawsuit over a video suggesting her 10-year-old son, Barron, is autistic, and the letter calls out Rosie O’Donnell as a bully.’
The voice over from the video, posted on YouTube by a user with the handle James Hunter, attempts to diagnose Barron Trump with autism based on video footage from news reports. The video clips show him doing things that James Hunter interprets as symptoms of autism, like “making strange movements in his seat,” moving his hands “erratically” while clapping, and not appearing to enjoy his father attempting to hug him onstage.
The footage, Melania Trump’s team points out, was taken during Donald Trump’s victory speech at the Republican National Convention (RNC) and during election night.
Making “strange” and “erratic” movements while suffering through boring political events, and not wanting your parents to touch you in public sound like things an autistic child would do. They also sound like things a lot of 10-year-old children would do.
As TMZ explains, Melania Trump insists the claims that her son has autism are false:
‘Melania’s team says both events were late at night, and Barron was exhibiting normal behavior for a 10-year-old.’
Melania Trump’s lawyer, Charles J. Harder also says Barron Trump only did that erratic clapping thing once, after he’d been at the RNC all day. He insists Barron Trump claps normally most of the time.
‘[The] vast majority of the time, he claps normally.’
Melania Trump doesn’t plan to sue Rosie O’Donnell at this point, but she definitely wants the video taken down and demands an apology. Actually, she deserves two apologies: One from Rosie O’Donnell and one from the person behind “James Hunter” and his autism video.
The Barron Trump “autism” video is wrong on so many levels.
Attempting to diagnose Barron Trump — a 10-year-old-child — with autism based on news footage is wrong on at least two levels. First, even the most ardent political enemies and the most salacious tell-all news hounds try to treat politicians’ children with kindness and respect. This is one of the few remnants of civility we still have.
Second, there’s a thing called the Goldwater Rule. Back in 1973, the now defunct Fact magazine asked over 12,000 psychiatrists whether Sen. Barry Goldwater was psychologically fit for the White House. Many declared he wasn’t, but after that, the American Psychiatric Association declared a ban on psychiatrists giving diagnoses to “patients” they’ve never seen.
Although this rule doesn’t apply to non-psychiatrists, many journalists have taken it as a rule of thumb. As Maria A. Oquendo, M.D. wrote on Psychiatry.Org‘s blog:
‘Simply put, breaking the Goldwater Rule is irresponsible, potentially stigmatizing, and definitely unethical.’
The video claims to be about stopping the online bullying against autistic children, and all the mean comments about Barron Trump’s alleged behavior…But it’s making things worse.
Featured image: John Moore via Getty Images.