Although the recent stories in the Wall Street Journal, Slate, In Touch, and Mother Jones about President Donald Trump’s alleged affair with porn star Stormy Daniels are filled with salacious details about his sex life, they also offer a fascinating glimpse into his many idiosyncrasies, particularly his many wacky phobias. Several years ago, journalist Richard Conniff wrote The Natural History of the Rich: A Field Guide, which looked at rich people from an animal-behavior perspective. Conniff wrote, “the rich are different than you and me… [The] rich get more candy than the rest of us. Or rather, they get more of whatever it is they happen to want, at any given moment. Whenever any animal gets more of a resource, it has a way of changing the animal’s behavior.” Moreover, because they live a very opulent and insulated life, often surrounded by loyal and enabling family members, sycophants, and subservient staff, the idiosyncratic behaviors and beliefs of the rich become amplified and deeply ingrained — to the extent that to any outsider these behaviors and beliefs seem, well, simply batshit crazy.
Take some of Tump’s phobias. Based on the news coverage from the past year, and from the recent Stormygate coverage, one has learned that Trump has several wacky phobias. First of all, Trump is a self-professed germaphobe. In several interviews, he has expressed the belief that shaking hands in a “barbaric practice” because of the spread of germs and “all sorts of things.” In Trump’s Art of the Comeback he wrote: “One of the curses of American society is the simple act of shaking hands, and the more successful and famous one becomes the worse this terrible custom seems to get. I happen to be a clean hands freak. I feel much better after I thoroughly wash my hands, which I do as much as possible.” (Interestingly, although Trump has germophobia, he does not have corresponding cypridophobia: the fear of sexually transmitted diseases. According to the Daniels’ interview published by In Touch, Trump and Daniels did not use protection when they engaged in sex. Go figure.) However, it is possible that Trump does have mysophobia, which is a morbid, overpowering fear of contamination.
The In Touch interview, conducted in 2011, also revealed that Trump has selachophobia (or galeophobia): fear of sharks. Daniels recounts: “Trump] was watching Shark Week and he was watching a special about the U.S.S. something and it sank and it was like the worst shark attack in history. He is obsessed with sharks. Terrified of sharks. He was like, ‘I donate to all these charities and I would never donate to any charity that helps sharks. I hope all the sharks die.’ He was like riveted. He was like obsessed. It’s so strange, I know.”
Trump also has phalacrophobia (or peladophobia): the fear of going bald. Dr. Ronny Jackson, Trump’s White House physician, during the president’s routine annual physical, noted that Trump took Propecia to treat male-pattern baldness. In the In Touch interview, Daniels shared: “I asked him about his hair. I was like, ‘Dude, what’s up with that?’ and he laughed and he said, ‘You know, everybody wants to give me a makeover and I’ve been offered all this money and all these free treatments.’ And I was like, ‘What is the deal? Don’t you want to upgrade that? Come on, man.’ He said that he thought that if he cut his hair or changed it, that he would lose his power and his wealth. And I laughed hysterically at him.” Perhaps Trump, like Samson from the Book of Judges in the Old Testament, was visited by an angel and promised him special powers as long as he didn’t cut his hair. It’s so strange, I know.
Michael Wolff’s fascinating book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, reveals that Trump has toxophobia: fear of being poisoned. Trump’s toxophobia is one of the reasons he prefers eating fast-food from McDonald’s and KFC. Wolff writes: “[Trump] had a longtime fear of being poisoned, one reason why he liked to eat at McDonald’s — nobody knew he was coming and the food was safely remade.” In an interview with CNN, Trump stated, “I’m a very clean person. I like cleanliness, and I think you’re better off going there [McDonald’s] than maybe someplace that you have no idea where the food’s coming from. It’s a certain standard.”
We close with a quote from Sean Spicer, the former White House press secretary, who often muttered this phrase to get through each day at work: “You can’t make this shit up.”
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For further reading: The Natural History of the Rich: A Field Guide by Richard Coniff
Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff
The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President by Bandy Lee, et al