An alreadyÂ tumultuous week of news for the White House was capped off by a New York Times report on Friday that said President Trump discussed his abrupt firing of James B. Comey as FBI director during an Oval Office meeting with Russian officials the day after the termination.
âI just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job,â Trump said, according to an account reported by the Times that was not disputed by the White House. âI faced great pressure because of Russia. Thatâs taken off.â
The new report ignited afresh the possibility that Trump had committed obstruction of justice.
But it was also the reappearance of one of Trumpâs preferred ways of insulting people:Â by suggesting that he is calling into question their mental stability. Itâs unclear if Trump does this intentionallyÂ â is this an instance where weâre supposed to take him seriously, but not literally?Â â or ifÂ he uses such put-downs without giving a second thought to their association with mental health.
Nevertheless, Trumpâs reported verbal attack on Comey sparked an immediate spike in lookups Friday for ânutjobâ (defined as âa mentally unbalanced person; a crazy person), according to Merriam Webster.
In the world of Trumpian taunts, itâs safe to say ânut jobâ falls somewhere on the second tier. A search of his Twitter accountÂ reveals the president lobs it with far less frequency than, say, âloserâ (which has appeared 72 times in his tweets), âcrazyâ (65 times) or âdumbâ (95 times).
In fact,Â Trump has only once called someone a ânut jobâ on Twitter: Glenn Beck.
Wacky @glennbeck who always seems to be crying (worse than Boehner) speaks badly of me only because I refuse to do his show–a real nut job!
â Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 8, 2015
(Beck refused to engage. âIt is beneath me to respond to this,â he told The Blaze.)
In person, Trump has labeled someone a ânut jobâ more often, from conservatives to liberals to dictators.
Last February, Trump called Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) the âdumbest human beingâ at an event in the senatorâs home state after the one-time Republican nomination rival had described Trump as “crazy” and “unfit for office.”
âHe went crazy,â Trump declared, according to ABC News. âThe guy is a nut job.â
Graham returned the insults about a week later, going on âa seven-minute diatribe in the Capitol basementâ before stating that he was âliterally running out of adjectivesâ with which to blast Trump, The Washington Post’s Paul Kane reported.
âI think heâs going to lose, and heâs going to lose badly,â Graham said of Trump. âSo donât look at me to be the guy who stops him from being president of the United States. You canât have it both ways. You canât nominate a nut job and lose, and expect it doesnât have consequences.â
A few months later, in June, Trump turned his ire on Bernie Sanders, whom heÂ deemed âcrazy Bernieâ and âa total nut job.â
Trump on âcrazy Bernieâ tonight: âHe is nuts. Heâs a total nut job.â
â John Aravosis (@aravosis) June 3, 2016
At the time, the Democratic presidential hopeful opted for the “I know you are but what am I” defense, laughing the insult off and telling a television reporter that Trump ought to look in the mirror.
Compared with his definitive assessments of Graham, Beck and Sanders, Trump was slightly more reserved when calling into question the mental state of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last January.
âI think itâs a serious problem because he is probably on the wacky side,â Trump said of Kim on Fox News then. âI mean, youâve got this mad man playing around with the nukes and it has got to end.Â Heâs certainly â he could be a total nut job, frankly.â
On Friday, Merriam-Webster reported that look-ups for ânutjobâ spiked 173,750 percent after the New York Times report published Trumpâs alleged remarks about Comey. By Saturday, ânutjobâ was the top trending word on the dictionary’s website.
“‘Nutjob’ is derived from the word ‘nut’ (âa crazy personâ) combined with the word ‘job,’ ” Merriam-Webster stated in a blog post. âYes, thatâs really it.â
Though relatively rare, the insult emerges frequently enough from Trump that the quirk made its way to an SNL cold open last April, in which a Trump surrogate â played by Cecily Strong â refers to herself as a ânut job.â
Itâs no secret that Trump loves to demean his critics with an array of put-downs. (In 2015 The Post found that Trump had publicly insulted at least 68 people or groups that year.)
But Trump seems to have a proclivity for insults that cast others as mentally unstable or mentally ill. In a few cases, he has said it outright.
Sorry, @Rosie is a mentally sick woman, a bully, a dummy and, above all, a loser. Other than that she is just wonderful!
â Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 9, 2014
I knew Chris Matthews when he was sane and, quite honestly, wonderful. Now he’s gone off the deep end as an Obama surrogate. @hardball_chris
â Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 27, 2012
But usually, Trump uses other words that are connected with mental health but have a negative connotation. He’sÂ called people âwackoâ (sometimes spelling it âwhacko,â especially when referring to disgraced former New York congressman Anthony Weiner).
Wow, Lyin’ Ted Cruz really went wacko today. Made all sorts of crazy charges. Can’t function under pressure – not very presidential. Sad!
â Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 3, 2016
A woman who got fired after two days of working with Scott Walker – a wacko – now trying to raise funds to fight me.
â Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 21, 2015
In a handful of instances, Trump has deemed someone â or something â to be a âbasket case.â Then-Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush? âA basket case!â Former âArt of the Dealâ ghostwriter Tony Schwartz? ” â¦ now a hostile basket case who feels jilted!â The United States of America? An âeconomic basket case.â
As The Post’s Colby Itkowitz reported last February, Trumpâs flippant usage of such insults reflected a broader, often dismissive attitude about mental health in society. People are so inured to such disparaging remarks insults that they often don’t immediately associate them with mental health at all â and even if they do, they donât think twice about it.
Trumpâs words only add to the âshameâ and negative stigma surrounding people who are suffering from mental illness, experts told Itkowitz.
âStigmatizing words, stereotypes and portrayals end up helping to shape societyâs attitudes,â Bob Carolla, spokesman for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said then.Â âYou canât say itâs harmless, because it isnât.â
Trump has also been on the receiving end of these types of insults â most recently when Comey’s father, 86-year-old J. Brien Comey, came to his son’s defense.
âI never was crazy about Trump,â J. Brien Comey told the Bergen County Record. âIâm convinced that heâs nuts. I thought he belonged in an institution. He was crazy before he became president. Now heâs really crazy.â