'Nothing funny about Donald Trump:' Media sound the alarm on the 'dangerous distraction' of his humor

Former President Donald Trump’s sense of humor has become an increasing topic of concern for left-leaning outlets ahead of the 2024 election, with at least five articles on the subject published since February.

Politico’s Sunday report, titled “In on the Joke: The Comedic Trick Trump Uses to Normalize His Behavior,” puzzled many online readers after presenting an in-depth analysis on the supposed “menace” behind Trump’s jokes.

“His critics along with experts in rhetoric and nationalist and populist movements and leaders say it helps him turn his opponents into not just enemies but jokes. They say it helps him recast his own liabilities as laughing matters and desensitizes his supporters to his most outrageous comments and proposals — the undermining of institutions, the abandonment of allies, mass deportations and all but outright invitations for Russian invasions and so on. They say the mirth masks the menace,” the article read.

The piece went on to quote experts like Jen Mercieca, the author of “Demagogue for President: The Rhetorical Genius of Donald Trump,” who explained that branding Trump’s opponents “undermines their credibility” and “reaffirms the us-versus-them polarization” all “under the guise of just joking.”

“That,” Mercieca said, “is how autocrats work.”

Former President Donald Trump’s humor is a “dangerous distraction” from the threat he poses, some outlets suggested. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

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Fox News host Greg Gutfeld responded to the Politico report during his Monday night show, joking, “So Trump’s funny, and the left’s response is to say ‘well, so are dictators.’ Well, sorry Politico, I don’t find Hitler or Stalin as amusing as you do.”

He added, “I think what adds to Trump’s humor is the outrage to it. It’s like you get two hits for the price of one. He’ll say something funny, and everyone flips out. It’s twice as funny.”

The citing of alleged experts to call out Trump’s use of humor was particularly galling to conservative comedian Tim Young.

“They are looking to be offended and they are looking to be morally and academically superior at all times,” he told Fox News Digital.

Politico was not the only outlet to spotlight and apparently condemn Trump’s humor in the past week.

Ahead of its March 21 issue, the New York Review of Books released an essay by contributor Fintan O’Toole who warned that some forms of humor can be used “to dehumanize those who are being victimized” and encourage that behavior to continue.

“Funny-autocratic functions better in a society like that of the US, where the boundaries of acceptable insult are still shifting and mainstream hate-mongering still has to be light on its feet. It allows racial insults and brazen lies to be issued, as it were, in inverted commas,” O’Toole wrote.

He added, “This is the thing about Trump’s form of organized laughter, in which the idea of humor obscures the distinction between outlandish words and real-life actions. Sooner or later, the first becomes the second. The in-joke becomes the killer line.”

Boston Globe columnist Renée Graham also warned on March 14 that the impact of Trump’s humor could extend to desensitizing Trump’s supporters, leaving a lasting impact.

“Trump never offends only those he targets. There’s always collateral damage when someone with a national bully pulpit demeans a person with a stutter or physical disability. And every laugh, every whoop from his minions, not only convinces Trump that he’s right but that his aberrant behavior is what his followers have come to expect,” Graham wrote.

Donald Trump appeared on late-night host Jimmy Fallon’s show ahead of the 2016 presidential election. Some liberals were angered when Falllon jokingly rubbed his head, accusing him of normalizing the candidate. (NBC)

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Liberals similarly fumed over Trump hosting “Saturday Night Live” in 2015 and his interview on “The Tonight Show” with host Jimmy Fallon ahead of a 2016 New Hampshire rally. During the interview, the comedian infamously tussled Trump’s hair in a manner that people feared normalized the candidate. Fallon later admitted he regretted the interview.

“I think Lorne Michaels helped get Trump elected,” comedian Anthony Jeselnik complained in 2019. “I think putting him on ‘SNL’ was way worse than the hair-ruffling thing.”

Two more outlets explored the concern over humor ahead of the presidential election last month.

“There is nothing funny about Donald Trump and the extreme danger to the country and world he represents. To laugh now is a dangerous distraction and waste of energy in what will be a long battle to save America’s multiracial pluralistic democracy,” Salon wrote in February.

In the same month, The Conversation U.S. noted, “Humour has always been a part of the rough and tumble of politics. But what’s different is the type of humour that Trump and the politicians that follow him indulge in. Trump tells norm-breaking jokes that punch down at the victims of discrimination and abuse: prisoners of war, trans athletes, the disabled, sexual assault survivors.”

“The more extreme the politics, the more humour is useful. Telling an offensive joke serves up prejudice and hatred with a side order of irony. Delivered with a nod and a wink, humour reassures us that it’s all just ‘a bit of fun,” it concluded.

These examples showed a return to the media outrage over meaningless issues regarding Trump, Young remarked.

“It’s sort of like the sky is falling. They scream that the sky is falling over and over again with Trump. It didn’t fall. In fact, things were pretty good under Trump. And now they have to go back to their sky is falling rhetoric, where even humor now is the most evil possible thing ever. And he’s just hiding extra evil by making people laugh. It’s ridiculous,” Young said.

He added, “The criticism that’s coming at Trump now about his humor is coming from the same people who want to eliminate comedy as it is.”

Trump’s sense of humor has been attacked by left-leaning media.

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Against the recent attack on Trump’s jokes, Young emphasized the importance of humor in politics.

“I think it brings levity to serious issues. I think it can educate people,” Young said. “With what I’ve done, I like to break down complex things with humor so that people understand them.”

He added, “It’s also one of the best criticisms of people. What better way to criticize someone than to laugh at them?”

Lindsay Kornick is an associate editor for Fox News Digital. Story tips can be sent to [email protected] and on Twitter: @lmkornick.

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