Body Language Analysis №4096: President Trump Refutes Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson’s Account Of Call To Soldier’s Widow — Nonverbal and Emotional Intelligence (VIDEO, PHOTOS)
On 4 October 2017, in Niger — near the border of Mali, four American and five Nigerian soldiers were killed by approximately 50 militant extremists with possible links to ISIS. Several soldiers were also injured.
On Tuesday, President Trump called Sgt. Johnson’s widow, Myeshia. She was in a car with Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (D — FL) and another family member who raised Sgt. Johnson — Ms. Cowanda Jones-Johnson. The call was taken on speaker-phone. According to Representative Wilson, the President said, “Well, I guess he knew what he signed up for, but I guess it still hurt.” Ms. Jones-Johnson agreed with Rep. Wilson’s recounting, saying “President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband.”
This morning in the White House, President Trump was asked about the phone call (see the video above). What follows is a partial nonverbal analysis of the President’s reaction.
JOURNALIST: Mr. President, what did you say to Sargent Johnson’s widow on the phone yesterday?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Didn’t say what that congresswoman said — didn’t say it at all. She knows it, and sh- now — is not saying it. I did not say what she said — and — ah, I’d like her to make the statement again because I did not say what she said. I had a very nice conversation, with thee [sic] — woman, with the wife — who is — sounded like a lovely woman. Did not say what the congresswoman said, and — most people aren’t too surprised to hear that.
JOURNALIST: What is the Proof Mr. President?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Ah, let, let her make her statement again and then you’ll find out.
JOURNALIST: She is saying that she — that you said this
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Okay, let her make her statement again, and then you’ll find out.
This image was captured during 0:00 and is a variation of a Tight Tongue Jut — indicating Disdain, Disgust, and Repulsive feelings.
A second later, during 0:01, President Trump displays Disgust.
This “Tongue in Cheek” display during 0:03 indicates the thought-emotions of “I Just Won”. It’s helpful to think of this as a nonverbal form of Smugness.
Most notably, President Trump kept his arms folded during this entire portion of the meeting. It’s very rare for any head of state to fold their arms during an official appearance — perhaps in their office, in private, etc., — but not during a speech, press conference, TV, etc. The only other US President who has done so was Richard Nixon — during his infamous “I am not a crook” press conference — on 17 November 1973, about 9 months prior to his resignation.
While not common for him, the President has been adopting this nonverbal configuration with increasing frequency in the last several months.
It’s important to make another distinction — for not all crossed-arms are the same. Notice how tightly-held Donald Trump’s upper arms are — positioned close to his torso. Also, crucially, his hands are hidden. This is significant for emotions of Low Confidence, Low Emotional Comfort, and Defensiveness — indicating a classic Beta mindset.
Summary: While President Trump’s body language during this exchange does not indicate outright deception — his emotions of defensiveness, low emotional comfort, and low confidence are highly suggestive of it. These emotions have been expressed by the President with increasing frequency — particularly within the last 90 days.
Moreover — Disdain, Disgust, feelings of Repulsion, and Smugness are non-contextual when discussing soldiers lost in combat. In contrast, an emotion we would expect to see here is Empathy — and yet there is none.
This post and the associated website serve as reference sources for the art and science of Body Language/Nonverbal Communication. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author. In an effort to be both practical and academic, many examples from/of varied cultures, politicians, professional athletes, legal cases, public figures, etc., are cited in order to teach and illustrate both the interpretation of others’ body language as well as the projection of one’s own nonverbal skills in many different contexts — not to advance any political, religious or other agenda.