Journalists, commentators, and lawmakers have become less inhibited in recent weeks, plunging into public speculation over President Trump’s mental health.
Certainly, if people close to any politician are engaged in such speculation behind closed doors, it’s relevant information for journalists to report about someone with great power. That’s one thing.
Reacting to a speech like the one Trump made last Tuesday, wild as it was, by flinging around diagnoses of “early onset dementia” is another. As we all agree, the mental health of our leaders is serious. And if you believe that, as CNN’s post-rally commentators certainly purported to, you should probably also believe the matter is so serious that it requires sober analysis. A television host or pundit with no medical qualifications hurling unsubstantiated diagnoses into the ether for millions of viewers and readers does not meet that standard.
If the media is seriously concerned about a politician’s mental health, especially when that politician is the president, those questions should be raised under only the strictest standards — reported objectively when reliable sources provide the information or with substantive analysis from a qualified medical professional who can point to specific behaviors, though even the American Psychological Association says it’s unethical for members to comment on “the mental state of someone they have not evaluated.”
Sober analysis is not what’s happening now. It appears, instead, that under the pretense of sincere concern the president’s detractors are leaning on conjecture and peripheral sources to issue a fresh round of attacks, one that packs a more powerful punch, in the hopes that it will finally bring him down.
If this continues and there is ever clear evidence that a politician’s mental health has left them incapable of governing, it’s going to be difficult for people to trust the media.
Emily Jashinsky is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.