Why We Shouldn’t Accept Donald Trump Calling Megyn Kelly ‘Crazy’

By Mark Joyella 

In less than 48 hours, Donald Trump has used his Twitter account to repeatedly call Fox News Channel host Megyn Kelly “crazy.”

The man who seems on the verge of locking up the Republican nomination for president has called Kelly “crazy” in at least six tweets since Tuesday night, when he rolled to victories in Florida, North Carolina, Missouri and Illinois.

Considering what Trump has said about his political opponents, about 1.6 billion people who are Muslim, and about women, calling Megyn Kelly “crazy” would seem somewhat mild. But it’s not, and it speaks volumes about the man’s character and what having him in the White House might mean not just for women, but for the one in four Americans (including myself) affected by mental illness.

Like psycho, deranged, lunatic and wacko, “crazy” is a disparaging term that reinforces stigma. These are precisely the words the Associated Press Stylebook warns journalists to avoid, comparing them to racial and ethnic epithets. “Do not use derogatory terms, such as insane, crazy/crazed, nuts or deranged, unless they are part of a quotation that is essential to the story.”

Trump seems to enjoy using words like “loser,” and “stupid.” But it’s significant how many of the words Trump includes in his go-to collection of putdowns have their ties to mental illness.

Colby Itkowitz, writing in the Washington Post notes that Trump “has called Jeb Bush a ‘basket case,’ Bernie Sanders a ‘wacko,’ Lindsay Graham a ‘nut job’ and Ted Cruz ‘nuts’ and ‘unstable’ and has repeatedly referred to Ben Carson’s ‘pathological disease.'”

It’s worth remembering here that the only thing Megyn Kelly did to warrant Trump’s unrelenting campaign of insults was to look the candidate in the face and confront him with his own disparaging words about women. For that offense in the first Republican debate, Trump has concluded Kelly must be diminished, degraded, destroyed.

For Trump’s high-value targets, he selects one insult, and uses it over and over and over again. Marco Rubio becomes “Little Marco.” Ted Cruz becomes “Lyin’ Ted.”

But why can’t he get over Megyn Kelly–and why did he choose “crazy”?

Harris O’Malley, a dating coach, says “crazy” is one of “the five deadly words guys use to shame women into compliance. The others: Fat. Ugly. Slutty. Bitchy. They sum up the supposedly worst things a woman can be.”

A woman who stands up to Donald Trump, then, must be crazy.

This kind of bullying is unacceptable–and so deeply revealing. It tells us just what Trump is afraid of: strong women. And it tells us how he fights: he thinks it’s worth resorting to epithets and stereotypes if it means hurting someone who has hurt him.

In Trump’s mind, crazy also means dangerous. As Colby Itkowitz observes, “on the subject of gun violence, he often conflates mental illness with crime. He said in October 2015 that gun-free zones are ‘target practice for the sickos and for the mentally ill.'”

The AP warns journalists, “do not assume that mental illness is a factor in a violent crime, and verify statements to that effect. A past history of mental illness is not necessarily a reliable indicator. Studies have shown that the vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent, and experts say most people who are violent do not suffer from mental illness.” (Italics mine)

That Donald Trump can’t–or won’t bother to–distinguish between a woman who asks uncomfortable questions and an outdated, insulting cliche should be troubling to the millions of Americans working to reduce the stigma that surrounds mental illness in this country.

At the very least, journalists who know better need to call him on it.