Body Language Analysis №4337: Donald Trump regarding Omarosa, “Lowlife. She’s a lowlife” — Nonverbal and Emotional Intelligence (VIDEO, PHOTOS)
On Saturday 11 August 2018, President Trump held a ‘Bikers for Trump’ rally at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. During this event, in response to a question by Maggie Haberman of the New York Times, Donald Trump called former White House aide Omarosa Manigault a “lowlife.” What follows is a partial nonverbal analysis of this exchange.
PRESIDENT TRUMP (beginning at 0:03): Does everybody like the press?
AUDIENCE: No! No!
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Do you think the media is fair?
AUDIENCE: No! No!
WOMAN IN AUDIENCE: Not!
MAN IN AUDIENCE: Not at all.
MAN IN AUDIENCE: They suck!
MAN IN AUDIENCE: Tell the truth!
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I better not go that that route.
WOMAN IN AUDIENCE: [over-talking] Fire ‘em!
MAGGIE HABERMAN: Mr. President -
PRESIDENT TRUMP: [over-talking] I better not go any further
MAGGIE HABERMAN: — do you feel betrayed by Omarosa, Sir?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: [to Maggie Haberman] Ah, [Trump nods up and down]
MAN IN AUDIENCE: [over-talking] Send ’em back out in the rain!
President Trump then pauses and says, [inaudible] to a man in the audience [spreading both arms outward and with his palms facing forward]
PRESIDENT TRUMP [turning back toward Maggie Haberman, speaking with the back side of his right hand, fingers extended up to mouth]: Lowlife. [drops hand, then nods up and down] She’s a lowlife.
WOMAN IN AUDIENCE: [over-talking] Send ’em back outside!
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Okay, thank you everybody.
Beginning at 0:20, Ms. Haberman asks, Mr. President — do you feel betrayed by Omarosa, Sir? The President pauses as he says, “Ah”, rotating his head to his left — he nods up-and-down — as he then turns toward a man in the audience. This nodding is an acknowledgement of his feelings of betrayal.
Mr. Trump then says something (inaudible on this recording) in response to the man’s suggestion (who had just shouted, “Send ’em back out in the rain!”). The President spreads his arm outward (although primarily his forearms, with his upper arms remaining close to his torso) — both palms facing outward toward the man in the audience. This answer was a stalling maneuver. The President used these few extra seconds to think of what he deemed a clever response to Ms. Haberman’s question.
Next, the President turns back to Ms. Haberman. He lifts his right hand up to his mouth with the fingers extended and says, “Lowlife”.
He then lowers his arm, as he again nods up and down (a bit more subtly) and says, “She’s a lowlife.” Donald Trump is also exhibiting contempt in this instant.
The President’s dynamic hand-to-mouth display in this context was a feigned act of insincere privacy. Of course, on occasion, during moments which aren’t fully-private, secrets are softly spoken with one’s hand acting as a sound barrier. And at other times this same gesture is used hyperbolically — in more of a comedy-sarcasm context.
Although Ms. Haberman’s question was posed to the President of the United States — in a public setting — and regarding a serious issue — the predominant emotion being expressed in this moment was one of sarcasm.
Contempt and disgust were close behind (seen here during 0:27).
Immediately after his response, during 0:31, the President turns away, tilts his head and neck downward, and briefly closes his eyes. His shoulders also slump.
SUMMARY: In this context, the dynamic gesture of bringing his hand up to his face during his answer, forming a pseudo-sound insulator, was a hyperbolic, theatrical, and sarcastic gesture. Donald Trump also felt contempt and disgust during this exchange. Yet, the President does indeed feel betrayed by Omarosa Manigault.
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This website serves as a reference source for the art and science of Body Language/Nonverbal Communication. The views and opinions expressed on this website 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.