When President Donald Trump called MSNBC morning show host Mika Brzezinski “crazy” and said she was “bleeding badly from a face-lift,” it was a shocking attack on a journalist, though not an unsurprising one from a commander in chief who has become known for his brazen remarks on Twitter.
Even before taking office, Trump gained notoriety for his flagrant Twitter rampages and it’s a trend he’s continued into his presidency.
Experts have equated Trump’s online behavior to cyberbullying — harm that is inflicted through technology and is done willfully and repeatedly.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Joel Haber, said in transforming the bully pulpit into plain old cyberbullying, the cultural implications of Trump’s online outbursts could have dangerous implications for larger society.
“These kinds of things that the president does become guideposts for people who think similar things to say them,” Haber, a leading expert on bullying, said. “When these behaviors are validated by the highest person in power, it’s hard to fight back when someone else says the same thing.”
Trump’s cyberbullying could serve to normalize the behavior, he said.
In the last week alone Trump has used Twitter as a platform to attack a journalist’s appearance, call out the “fake news” media and, most notoriously, advocate for violence against reporters in re-posting a WWE video of himself pummeling another man with the CNN logo superimposed over his face.
Trump has targeted everyone from Rosie O’Donnell, calling her “crude, rude, obnoxious and dumb,” to a federal judge who blocked his travel ban in his Twitter attacks, though he’s been especially brutal toward women and attacking their appearances. Its behavior Dr. Haber said could become more common as they see a person in prominence getting away with it.
Rosie is crude, rude, obnoxious and dumb - other than that I like her very much!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 11, 2014
Did Crooked Hillary help disgusting (check out sex tape and past) Alicia M become a U.S. citizen so she could use her in the debate?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 30, 2016
I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don't watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came..— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 29, 2017
...to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year's Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 29, 2017
“This is a pattern of behavior against women. If there are men out there who believe in the same things [as Trump tweets] that behavior is less likely to be contained,” Haber said. “He’s leading the free world. Let's be real — once it's out there without retractions or apologies, it's validated.”
Haber said Trump's refusal to take responsibility for his words further validates cyberbullying behavior.
"If the president would take a responsibility for his behaviors, then we’d have a point for discussion. If the president doesn’t do that, it's basically saying that is appropriate behavior and opens the doors to reach a new level of ugliness," Haber said.
First lady Melania Trump has declared fighting cyberbullying as her personal mission while in the White House.
“Our culture has gotten too mean and too rough,” she said of online bullying while announcing her initiative in November.
Apparently her husband didn’t get the message.