Donald Trump has publicly supported more unproven conspiracy theories than any president in recent memory. By one count, published by Business Insider, Trump is on record advocating 24 separate conspiracy theories. Now, one journalist says he has figured out why Trump is attracted to “groundless suspicions” about the alleged dark forces behind political events.
The baseless conspiracy theories “seem to serve distinct emotional needs,” for Trump, “feeding a narcissistic ego that cold reality won’t satisfy,” according to an essay published by The Atlantic on Friday.
Trump’s apparent belief in a widely debunked conspiracy theory involving allegations that Ukraine, not Russia, attacked the 2016 election played a major role in setting off the current impeachment inquiry against him.
In his July 25 phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump mentioned his belief that a Democratic National Committee computer server — which, according to the conspiracy theory, would contain evidence of Ukrainian hacking — has fallen into the hands of a wealthy businessman in that country.
In the phone call, Trump reportedly asked Zelensky for a “favor” that partially entailed Ukraine launching an investigation into the non-existent server.
Because Trump reportedly finds the idea that he won the 2016 election over Democrat Hillary Clinton due to Russian meddling “repellent,” according to Atlantic writer Peter Nicholas, he has latched on to the “Ukraine” conspiracy theory as a way to both exonerate Russia of the 2016 election interference, and legitimize his own victory in that election.
“We’ve never had a president who trades in conspiracy theories, who prefers lies instead of fact,” historian Douglas Brinkley told Nicholas, as quoted in the Atlantic article.
Trump has also claimed that during the 2016 campaign, President Barack Obama ordered his phone wiretapped and spied upon, claiming that there was an Obama-backed conspiracy against him designed to stop him from winning the election. But that conspiracy theory has now been debunked by a draft report compiled by the Department of Justice Inspector General.
The report finds no evidence of spying against the Trump campaign during the 2016 race for president.
To understand why Trump continues to advocate and, apparently, believe unfounded conspiracy theories, it is necessary to understand Trump’s personality, Nicholas writes in his Atlantic essay.
“Mental-health experts have described Trump as a narcissist forever feeding his grandiose sense of self,” Nicholas writes in the Atlantic essay. As a result, Trump is uninterested in “facts and evidence.”
Instead, Trump tends to be persuaded by “what makes him feel better about himself,” Nicholas writes.
Trump’s definition of “good and bad” is determined solely by “what makes him feel good in the moment,” psychiatrist David Reiss told Nicholas, who quotes him in the Atlantic essay.