The Ugly Truth the Trump Girther Movement Reveals About Us

It took only a few hours for the internet to erupt with criticism after Dr. Ronny Jackson released the results of President Donald Trump’s medical testing. A slew of people almost immediately took to Twitter and called into question the statistics Jackson revealed. However, fat-shaming Trump also says some unflattering things about America, as a whole.

Trump’s physical started a movement

 Trump physician Dr. Ronny Jackson speaks during the daily White House press briefing

Trump physician Dr. Ronny Jackson speaks during the daily White House press briefing. | Alex Wong/Getty Images

Jackson reported that Trump weighs 239 pounds with a body mass index of 29.9, putting him just one pound shy of obesity.  For context, NBC reports that, 70.7% of Americans are either overweight or obese, with more than 36% considered clinically obese. An estimated 73 million American adults have high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad,” cholesterol, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That puts Trump’s stats, for Americans, squarely within the “normal” range.

Many considered Trump’s narrow miss of the obesity category highly suspect. So suspect, in fact, that it launched a “girther movement,” an apparent nod to the “birther movement” perpetuated by Trump over former President Barack Obama’s birthplace. While tongue-in-cheek, the two movements do have a lot in common.

Next: Even some doctors call the stats into question.

Is his health really ‘excellent’?

dr. sanjay gupta speaks behind a podium

Dr. Sanjay Gupta called Dr. Jackson’s assessment into question. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

According to Salon, Dr. Sanjay Gupta challenged Jackson during a briefing. Earlier, Jackson had called Trump’s health “excellent” despite some troubling numbers. “He is taking a cholesterol-lowering medication, he has evidence of heart disease, and he is borderline obese,” Gupta asked. “Can you characterize that as excellent health?”

“I would say the dose of his cholesterol medicine is very low,” Jackson replied. “If we [change] the diet and exercise, I just don’t think that he has much room to do anything else.” Gupta confirmed that Trump’s numbers wouldn’t be considered “signs of excellent health.”

Next: The metrics used to measure Trump do have flaws.

Trump’s BMI does not tell the whole story

the trumps and obamas on inauguration day

Trump stands next to former president Barack Obama. Trump said he stands at 6-foot-3 and Obama says he’s 6-foot-1. Who’s right? | Rob Carr /AFP/Getty Images

Many in the #girthermovement posted photos of Trump next to professional athletes and others with similar stats as he reported. Those images certainly make Trump’s height and weight look suspicious, but they do not tell the whole story. According to the National Institutes of Health, “The higher your BMI, the higher your risk for certain diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, gallstones, breathing problems, and certain cancers.” That’s why doctors use BMI with their patients, Vox points out.

The problem is, BMI comes with a lot of limitations. It provides an indirect measure of body fat and does not take into account factors like age, gender, bone structure, and fat distribution. As one study in the International Journal of Obesity explained, BMI’s vague definitions can lead to problems.

Next: If we judge by BMI alone, we risk making big mistakes.

BMI can even lead to diagnosing someone wrongly


BMI does not always provide an accurate measure. | Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

Judging a person on BMI alone can lead to misdiagnoses, especially in older people, the researchers wrote. “A person’s percentage of body fat is known to increase with age, whereas muscle mass decreases, but the person’s weight and height do not necessarily reflect such changes in body fat and muscle mass. Some elderly persons who are portly but have low muscle mass have normal or even low BMI scores, an underestimation of body fat.” That means Trump may look larger than his BMI, but his BMI can still fall within a “normal range.”

Next: What about that cognitive test?

Does the president have dementia? Who knows?

Donald Trump during debate

The only person who knows Trump’s mental state for sure is the one who examined him. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

During the presidential campaign, The American Psychiatric Association President Maria A. Oquendo wrote about the dangers of trying to diagnose anyone from afar. “The unique atmosphere of this year’s election cycle may lead some to want to psychoanalyze the candidates, but to do so would not only be unethical, it would be irresponsible.”

Trump did pass a basic dementia test, according to Jackson, who also treated Obama and George W. Bush. The 15-minute exam that Jackson administered is called the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, and doctors use it to test for early signs of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. For someone who does not suffer from cognitive impairment, the tests look simple. However, “the test is very sensitive to early stages of these conditions,” explained Dr. Ziad Nasreddine, who developed the assessment in 1996. The test does not show that Trump is “like, really smart,” just that he probably does not have dementia.

Next: We should be more worried about this side of the president.

Trump has touted his excellent health before

Donald Trump visits Trump International Golf Links

Some of the only exercise Trump gets happens on the golf course. | Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

In 2015, during his presidential campaign, Trump’s personal doctor, Harold Bornstein, declared that, “If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.” That does not exactly ring true, but we should place more skepticism on Trump’s views on health, in general.

‘‘All my friends who work out all the time, they’re going for knee replacements, hip replacements—they’re a disaster,’’ he told the New York Times in 2015. A 2016 book by Washington Post reporters Mike Kranisch and Marc Fisher also included Trump’s “battery theory” of human energy. He Trump believes that “the human body was like a battery, with a finite amount of energy, which exercise only depleted.” In other words, Trump’s ideas on his body are far more revelatory than the meat suit itself.

Next: Regardless, people quickly jumped to skepticism.

A cash reward went out for Trump’s ‘real’ weight

James Gunn at the opening of the Guardians of The Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! ride

James Gunn offered a large sum of money to charity if he can see Trump’s weight. | Richard Harbaugh/Getty Images

Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn offered a prize for Trump to step on a scale in his presence. “I will give $100 thousand dollars to Trump’s favorite charity if he will step on an accurate scale with an impartial medical professional, okayed by both of us. For real. #Girther #GirtherMovement,” Gunn tweeted. Immediately thereafter, some accused him of “fat-shaming” the president, or criticizing him based solely on his weight.

Next: Gunn responded to those allegations, as well.

Does the girther movement fat-shame Trump?

donald trump eating a pork chop on a stick

Shaming Trump for his diet, exercise, and weight just stoops to his level. | Win McNamee/Getty Images

Some Twitter users accused Gunn and the #girther movement of fat-shaming Trump. Gunn responded, “This has nothing to do with fat shaming. It has to do with a continuous pattern of fabricating facts by both Trump and his administration.” He also threw it back on the president himself, saying, “Yes, I offered 100k for Trump to step on a legitimate scale. Now the Trumpites are out in droves claiming I’m fat-shaming (again, it’s about a pattern of lying, not about weight). I wish you guys were there while Trump was calling Rosie a ‘fat pig’ or Alicia Machado ‘Miss Piggy.’”

Or, as Yoni Freedhoff, an obesity doctor based in Canada, wrote on Twitter, the BMI-fueled girther movement is “sure is doing a kick-a** job at perpetuating fat shaming, weight hate, and gluttony/sloth narratives.”

Next: Why not go after Trump because of his weight?

Attacking Trump’s weight looks a bit hypocritical

trump's hands folded in front of a dinner plate

If we attack Trump for his size, we stoop to the level of his own insults. | Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

While Gunn points out that Twitter did not defend Rosie O’Donnell or Alicia Machado when Trump fat-shamed them, two wrongs do not make a right. While Trump should not have criticized O’Donnell or Machado’s weight, no one who has not examined Trump should “weigh” in on his health, either. Trump critics would be better off taking the higher ground, rather than stooping to the same level. Besides, do #girther conspiracy theorists really have room to criticize the movement its name is based on, when they leap on a very similar train?

As a NBC commentary put it, “Either we have standards as a country (and as liberals), or we don’t. Either we believe in fat-shaming as an accepted practice … or we don’t. Either we believe that we should treat people according to the dictates of our purported morals, or we don’t.” She also added that the same criticism would never stand if Hillary Clinton were at the brunt of it. America: Take the high road. Criticize the president’s policies, sure. But leave his weight alone.

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