Trump, the king of sarcasm ... not

President Donald Trump talks to journalists while departing the White House in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 1, 2019. Trump is being critisized by some after he suggested at a press conference that household cleaners may cure the coronoavirus in people. Trump later said he was being sarcastic. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/TNS

Dear Donald Trump:

Man, I have to admit it. You really got me good.

When you looked straight at Dr. Deborah Birx last week and started musing how people might be able to cure COVID-19 by exposure to ultraviolet light or injecting household disinfectants, I thought you were serious. I said to myself: “Wow, Donald Trump just seriously suggested people should shoot up with Lysol.” The makers of Lysol even felt the need to issue a statement asking people not to take their product internally.

So you can imagine my surprise the next day when you explained, “I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters ... just to see what would happen.” Ha-ha! Good one, Mr. President. You really had me going. I mean, the way you addressed Dr. Birx while talking to reporters, the way you gave absolutely no hint that you weren’t in earnest. Wow. Bravo.

Then, as if that weren’t enough, you tweeted two days later that reporters should return the “Noble Prizes” they won for reporting on “Russia, Russia, Russia.” Many people jumped on that, accusing you of simultaneously misidentifying a famous journalism prize and misspelling another prize that’s given to important scientists, iconic literary figures and to great leaders like Barack Obama.

When I heard about your tweet, I was in the kitchen cooking up a complicated chicken dish. Boy, I nearly dropped my Pullet Surprise all over the floor. Is he out of his mind? I asked out loud. And was I ever embarrassed when you deleted those tweets a few hours later and tweeted — ha ha ha! — that you were just kidding us again. What a rascal you are.

It must be so hard to have people always misunderstanding you. In one tweet you asked, “Does sarcasm ever work?”

I don’t blame you for being exasperated. But you have to understand that you are processing things on a level most of us can’t even conceive. I mean, with meat packers warning of food shortages, the economy in ruins, America leading the world in coronavirus cases and the death toll surpassing the 58,000 who died in Vietnam, most people would consider this a time for serious, sober analysis.

Who but you would have realized it’s actually a time for hijinks?

Well, not hijinks, exactly. That word implies humor that is fun or carefree. Sarcasm is more arch and acidic than that. Merriam-Webster describes it as “sharp and often satirical or ironic ... designed to cut or give pain.” Indeed, sarcasm is often expressed in saying the opposite of what you mean. Like when you dub a fat guy, “Tiny” or a tall guy “Shorty.” Or like when you call a bunch of goobers geniuses.

But you already know all of this, don’t you? Yours is one of the great minds in America today, if not in the whole world. Many people are saying you’re the best president, ever. And we sure are lucky to have you leading us through this crisis. The way you’ve handled it has been beautiful. Your press conferences have been perfect. You’ve used the best words and had the best people.

Would Obama or Bush have done a better job? Would Clinton or Carter or Eisenhower or Coolidge or McKinley or Harrison or Grant or Fillmore or Polk or Van Buren or, indeed, anyone who has ever been president at any time in all of American history? I think we both know the answer to that.

I have to say, though, that I’m sorry to hear you’re having doubts about the power of sarcasm, wondering if it works. That’s long been one of my favorite rhetorical devices and I’ve always found it worked just fine. But if you disagree, I suppose I’ll have to reconsider using sarcasm from now on.

After all, you’re never wrong.

Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald, 3511 N.W. 91 Avenue, Doral, Fla. 33172. Readers may write to him via email at

Tribune Wire


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(3) comments

keyser soze

Trump and his misguided minions have taken the art of fact distortion and outright lying to levels never before seen. They learned, even before he took office, that his fanatical, low-info cult members either can't see through the spin, misdirection, obfuscation, and denial of the truth, or are willfully ignorant and just don’t care.

And for some reason journalists won't use the "L" word (as in LIE) in either Trump's or an administration official's presence. Maybe it's poor form to call the president a liar to his face? It should not be!

Label them what they are -- LIARS.

Maybe public humiliation will give them pause next time one of them steps up to the microphone to tell yet another barefaced LIE. Then again, I doubt it.


I’ve got your sarcasm right here….

Holmes -- the real one

Oh keyser soze, you have sent me down a dark rabbit hole of humor from your link to:

The Liar Tweets Tonight


Confounds the Science


I Want to Know What Day It Is


A Medley of Songs for Social Distancing

20-Second Parodies for Handwashing

Thank you for that too brief interlude of laughter. I sincerely hope that others will take the Tide Pod, whoops, I mean the YouTube Quarantine challenge.

Holmes -- the real one

Sarcasm -- the word derivation comes from the same root as sarcoma (which is a class of cancers that originate in the bones or in the flesh).

Etymology: derived from the French sarcasme or Latin sarcasmos and from the Greek sarkasmos --- from sarkazein meaning "to tear flesh, bite the lips in rage, sneer," the root of which is from sark-, sarx "flesh"

Sarcasm is more than irony – this denotes a remark made to intentionally hurt someone's feelings or show scorn.

Often accompanied by a sneer:

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