I really don’t like being misquoted. In discussing my scientific work, someone will inevitably pop up to say something like “But you claimed that XYZ was absolutely true”, when in fact I actually said something like “XYZ might possibly be valid in some limited specific circumstances”. The distortions, the misunderstandings, the misquotations are astounding.
And as a result of having this happen to me over and over, just above the comment box below it says in big letters:
You are invited to add your comments. Please QUOTE THE EXACT WORDS YOU ARE DISCUSSING so we can all be clear on your subject.
That has kept the distortions down … but not out.
But that’s nothing compared to the distortions of what Donald Trump has said. So I thought I’d take a moment to look back at a few things he’s said that have been taken totally out of context. In some of the quotes, I’ve emphasized certain words or phrases, and all such emphasis is mine.
Before I start, let me make my position clear. I’m not a big fan of President Trump personally. He is crude, he insults people, he shoots from the hip, he exaggerates his successes and minimizes his failures … in short, he’s a typical New York real estate developer.
But I am a great fan of President Trump’s policies. What he has done for the country, from tax reductions to cutting useless restrictive regulations to re-negotiating NAFTA to increasing manufacturing jobs to stopping the TPP to cutting unemployment to record low levels has been nothing short of amazing.
So I don’t really care that he is crude, rude, and rough. As George Orwell said, although not in these exact words:
“People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”
So it’s OK with me to have a “rough man” as our President. At this time in history, it’s what we need.
But it drives me nuts to see him misquoted over and over again. So let me look at a few of his statements that have been distorted beyond all reason.
Quote 1: The basic claim:
Trump said that all Mexicans are rapists and murders.
Quote 1: What people have said:
Tim Kaine, the 2016 Democratic Vice Presidential Nominee, said:
“The thing that amazes me is the depth of his trash talking with Latinos, saying all Mexicans are rapists and going after Latino immigrants.”
Quote 1: What Donald Trump actually said:
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you [pointing at people in the audience]. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
Quote 1: Discussion:
Let’s look at the facts, OK? Here’s the first fact:
• Although some of them are in fact good people, the people sneaking across our southern border are NOT the best people in Mexico.
• Some are MS-13 members. Some are rapists. Some are Mexican cartel members. Some are fugitives from Mexican authorities. Some are “coyotes” who guide Mexicans across the border and sometimes rape, rob, or kill the very people they are guiding across. Some are terrorists. Some are drug smugglers.
• And yes, some are just poor honest shlubs looking for a better life.
In other words, everything Trump said was absolutely true. And most importantly, he did NOT say “all Mexicans are rapists” or indeed anything about “all Mexicans”. That was just Tim Kaine and a host of others, lying over and over again for political advantage.
Quote 2: The basic claim:
Trump said that Nazis are “good people”.
Quote 2: What people have said:
Billy Joel, musician extraordinaire and inept political commentator, said:
“The president said, you know, ‘There’s some good people on that side …’ No, Nazis aren’t good people,”
Quote 2: What Donald Trump actually said:
REPORTER: Mr. President, are you putting what you’re calling the alt-left and white supremacists on the same moral plane?
TRUMP: I am not putting anybody on a moral plane, what I’m saying is this: you had a group on one side and a group on the other, and they came at each other with clubs and it was vicious and horrible and it was a horrible thing to watch, but there is another side. There was a group on this side, you can call them the left. You’ve just called them the left, that came violently attacking the other group. So you can say what you want, but that’s the way it is.
REPORTER: You said there was hatred and violence on both sides?
TRUMP: I do think there is blame – yes, I think there is blame on both sides. You look at, you look at both sides. I think there’s blame on both sides, and I have no doubt about it, and you don’t have any doubt about it either. And, and, and, and if you reported it accurately, you would say.
REPORTER: The neo-Nazis started this thing. They showed up in Charlottesville.
TRUMP: Excuse me, they didn’t put themselves down as neo-Nazis, and you had some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides. You had people in that group – excuse me, excuse me. I saw the same pictures as you did. You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down, of to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.
REPORTER: George Washington and Robert E. Lee are not the same.
TRUMP: Oh no, George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington now lose his status? Are we going to take down – excuse me. Are we going to take down, are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him? Okay, good. Are we going to take down his statue? He was a major slave owner. Are we going to take down his statue? You know what? It’s fine, you’re changing history, you’re changing culture, and you had people – and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally – but you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists, okay? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly. Now, in the other group also, you had some fine people, but you also had troublemakers and you see them come with the black outfits and with the helmets and with the baseball bats – you had a lot of bad people in the other group too.
REPORTER: I just didn’t understand what you were saying. You were saying the press has treated white nationalists unfairly?
TRUMP: No, no. There were people in that rally, and I looked the night before. If you look, they were people protesting very quietly, the taking down the statue of Robert E. Lee. I’m sure in that group there were some bad ones. The following day, it looked like they had some rough, bad people, neo-Nazis, white nationalists, whatever you want to call ‘em. But you had a lot of people in that group that were there to innocently protest and very legally protest, because you know, I don’t know if you know, but they had a permit. The other group didn’t have a permit. So I only tell you this: there are two sides to a story. I thought what took place was a horrible moment for our country, a horrible moment. But there are two sides to the country.
Quote 2: Discussion:
What Trump actually said was that in Charlottesville there were both neo-Nazis and people who simply wanted to peacefully protest taking down a historical statue. He said that the group simply wanting to protest the statue contained some good people … and curiously, he SPECIFICALLY AND STRONGLY spoke against the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, saying they should be “condemned totally”.
But in our current political environment, where people are ready and willing to believe anything bad about Trump, even specifically disowning the neo-Nazi movement is not enough … he still gets misquoted.
Quote 3: The basic claim:
Trump said he sexually assaults women.
Quote 3: What people have said:
Quote 3: What Trump actually said:
Trump: You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful… I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star THEY LET YOU DO IT. You can do anything.”
Bush: “Whatever you want.”
Trump: “Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”
Quote 3: Discussion
The central issue here is consent. Everyone quotes this as though Donald Trump would just walk up to any woman and grab her by her private parts. You can see one of those people above. But that’s nothing even remotely like what he said.
He said if you are a star, there are women in Hollywood who will LET YOU do anything you want. And it’s true. In my youth, when I played in rock bands, we used to call them “star-f.ckers” … and they would do much more than just let a star fondle them.
Here’s a rude reality about sex: most men will do whatever women LET THEM do. If a woman doesn’t LET A MAN kiss her, he generally doesn’t kiss her. If she LETS A MAN kiss her, he probably will kiss her.
Now, kissing a woman if she DOESN’T LET YOU is indeed a crime. It’s a form of sexual assault, and reasonably so, because it’s non-consensual … but kissing her if she LETS YOU is, well, human sexual behavior that we’ve all engaged in.
And in Hollywood, from all accounts, there are women who will LET stars take all kinds of liberties with them … and guess what?
Many, perhaps most, male stars will be sorely tempted to do just that.
So no, President Trump is not a “self-confessed sexual assaulter” as someone claimed to me the other day. His statement involved consensual sexual behavior, not sexual assault.
To be clear, it’s consensual sexual behavior I’ve never engaged in … but then I’ve never been a star. And please, don’t shoot the messenger on this one. I stand 100% against all types of violence against women, including sexual assault, and I’ve never engaged in it.
But the Donald, a private citizen and a media star at the time, was not talking sexual assault or violence of any kind against women—he was talking about consensual behavior between consenting adults.
In closing, let me appeal to people to read what people say very carefully, and if practical, to quote the exact words that you are objecting to. It’s easy to be misunderstood on the intarwebs or in the media, much easier than in person. So please, I ask you all to do me (and everyone else) the courtesy of not misquoting or misrepresenting our words. After getting bitten many times, I’ve become very cautious about what write down. I think about my words very carefully. I sign all my words, and as a result, I have to be ready to stand behind them, sometimes even after decades.
So I don’t want to say anything that I cannot defend … but neither I nor the President can defend ourselves against someone else’s incorrect interpretation of our words.
Here, it’s one of the last warm days of summer, so I’m going to put down my electronic pencil, enjoy the sunshine, and move some redwood tree limbs towards the chipper …
My best wishes to everyone, for joy, for consensual fun with your partner of choice, and for sunlight far-reaching on the sea …