Video of President Donald Trump flashing his middle finger went viral over the weekend. Did the president intentionally flip the bird to women astronauts who corrected one of his factual inaccuracies? That’s open to interpretation. But it’s at least the fourth time during his presidency that Trump appeared to give a sneaky middle finger to people he doesn’t like.
On Friday, President Trump spoke via video link from the White House to astronauts in space as they became the first two women to conduct a spacewalk together. Trump was visibly frustrated that there was a 5-second delay in communication, a technical limitation that can’t be helped since he was talking to astronauts in orbit. But the thing that really seemed to anger Trump was that one of the astronauts corrected something he said.
“And this is the first time for a woman outside of the space station,” President Trump said in his opening remarks.
But once the astronauts, Christina Koch and Jessica Meir, were able to speak, they mentioned that this wasn’t the first time that a woman had been outside of the space station. This was only the first time that two women had been outside in space together.
“First of all, we don’t want to take too much credit, because there have been many other female space walkers before us. This is just the first time there have been two women outside at the same time,” Meir said.
As you can see from the video uploaded to YouTube by C-SPAN, Trump raises his middle finger to touch his face while Meir was speaking. Was it an innocent gesture? If it only happened once, you might be able to say that. But Trump’s middle finger on Friday was far from the first time that he pulled this move.
President Trump flipped two birds during a Black History Month “listening session” at the White House on February 1, 2017, one of which you can see in the GIF below.
As you can see on Trump’s right, he’s sitting next to Omarosa Manigault, who would leave the White House and go on to write a scathing book about the dysfunction of the Trump government, even accusing the president of eating paper to conceal sensitive documents.
Trump, an infamously petty man, made another middle finger gesture at the G7 in Italy during a panel on investment in Africa on May 27, 2017. President Trump received criticism during the meeting for supposedly not putting his translation earpiece in while the Italian Prime Minister was speaking, even though Trump eventually did. The thing that went unnoticed by most mainstream news outlets, however, was Trump’s middle finger, which is pretty clear in the GIF below.
Then there was the middle finger President Trump gave during an impromptu press briefing on September 25, 2017 after he was criticized for railing against NFL players who were kneeling during the national anthem. Trump insisted at the time that his comments had “nothing to do with race.”
A Trump supporter in South Carolina famously said before the 2016 election that they were voting with their middle finger. And that sentiment is the entire reason that people seem to still support Trump here in our era of hatred and division.
Obviously Trump’s middle finger isn’t the most pressing issue of the day. The president is investigating his political opponents, he’s openly solicited help from multiple foreign governments to investigate a Democratic candidate for president, and he continues to profit from the presidency through his various business holdings. The nonprofit watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has discovered over 2,500 conflicts of interest involving Trump’s businesses.
And all of that is to say nothing of foreign policy decisions, like the betrayal of the Kurds, that make the U.S. not only less safe, but also make America an object of ridicule and hate by former allies. Kurds were even seen pelting U.S. troops with fruit today in Qamishli, Syria as American convoys retreated from the area, opening the door for Turkey and Turkish-backed extremist groups to slaughter innocent people.
Every day that Trump remains in office he’s doing irreparable harm to our country. But Trump’s middle finger is, if nothing else, a succinct visual demonstration of what’s happening to the U.S. right now.
The Trump presidency operates through a perpetual state of plausible deniability. Trump supporters can call people crazy for seeing things that are happening right in front of their eyes and saying that they’re not actually occurring. When President Trump looks to the skies and says he’s the “chosen one” people can say he was joking, despite the fact that he wasn’t laughing or even smiling.
White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney spent his weekend denying things we’d seen him say on Thursday about the White House’s pressure on Ukraine for an investigation of Joe Biden. That’s how this regime operates. And Trump’s middle finger appears to be just one more example of Trump pushing the limits of plausible deniability.
The only question is how much longer the American people will let him get away with it. Because if Trump’s government survives impeachment, there’s no telling how much worse it’s going to get.