Lots of public figures have made missteps during the pandemic — but the latest iteration of the White House media circus cuts deep. On Monday, Nancy Pelosi, while on air on CNN, spoke with Anderson Cooper about President Donald Trump’s response to coronavirus. And she took a moment to explain her personal concerns about the recent news that Trump has been taking hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 — a drug that’s usually prescribed for illnesses including malaria, lupus, and more. During a press conference on Monday, Trump confirmed that he was taking the drug despite the fact that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned against it.
However, Pelosi didn’t simply call the president out for his use of the medication, and her critique wasn’t of his politics and how touting this drug could be harmful to the American public. Instead, the House Speaker took a pointed jab at his body size. “He’s our president and I would rather he not be taking something that has not been approved by the scientists, especially in his age group and his… shall we say… weight group — morbidly obese,” Pelosi said to Anderson Cooper. Following her comments, social media exploded with criticism for her blatant fat-shaming, saying that Pelosi’s attack on Trump’s body in no way proved the larger point: that Trump’s peddling of hydroxychloroquine is dangerous for everyone, not just him.
As Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi put it on Twitter, “There are many things to revile about Trump that have nothing to do with his corporeal form, for instance: everything he’s ever done, everything he’s currently doing, everything he’s hoping to do.” And many others echoed the damage caused by Pelosi’s statement about Trump.
“Morbidly obese is trending on Twitter because every day is a good day to be fatphobic, even during a pandemic,” Bitch editor-in-chief Evette Dione wrote on Twitter. “You don’t have to resort to being fatphobic to express dislike toward someone, even someone as monstrous as 45.”
Although there are valid critiques of Trump’s use of the drug — like how it could potentially skyrocket use, leaving those who need it for treatment without a life-saving prescription — using his body size or weight to fat shame him did much less for Pelosi’s argument than she thought.
Contrary to Pelosi’s comments, Donald Trump’s weight is not the reason that people are suffering right now. In reality, it’s the policies he’s passed and the actions he and his administration didn’t take to prevent a pandemic of this gravity that are harming people. There are many things fellow politicians and constituents alike can call out about how the president has misstepped, but none of them should have anything to do with his body or physical attributes.
Shaming Trump based on his body only detracts from the real issues at hand, like the way that Trump and his administration is handling stimulus bills, failing to provide enough PPE to health care professionals in need, and chose not to act early enough to save peoples’ lives or get ahead of widespread testing measures in America — calling it “overrated.”
On top of that, criticizing Trump on his weight and not his politics only perpetuates a false morality binary wherein all fat people are inherently immoral simply for the size of their bodies, and anyone who isn’t fat is inherently “good.” As many have pointed out, so many more people are harmed by fat-shaming comments than simply Trump, and it probably won’t hurt him much anyhow.
Ultimately, when someone bases their criticism in fatphobia and language that shames someone for their bodies, what it actually communicates is that fat people are bad in general, and that being fat is the worst thing you could be — as opposed to being a president who has let the people in his country go without health care, extra pay and benefits for workers on the frontline, stimulus checks, and ultimately die unnecessarily during a global pandemic.
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