Gaffe Track: Trump's Spokesman Snafu

Mary Altaffer / AP
Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

The candidate: Donald Trump

The gaffe: Some outlets have noted that Trump used to speak to reporters under an alias, claiming to be either “John Miller” or “John Barron,” spokesmen for himself. On May 13, The Washington Post reported on a recording, in which “John Miller” speaks with a syntax and voice that is pretty unmistakably Trumpian. That’s weird, but here’s the gaffe: Trump denied that he had ever used the aliases, even though he admitted to having used “John Barron” while he was under oath in a deposition years ago.

The defense: All’s fair in (lying about) love

Why it matters (or doesn’t): Trump has a rather rocky relationship with truth, but this is a weird one: Caught in a mildly embarrassing, or at best simply eccentric practice, he’s lied blatantly—or else he’s admitted to perjuring himself. The unnecessary dissimulation is simply bizarre. It would be a serious blow to a normal presidential candidate. But …

The lesson: A man who represents himself in court has a fool for a client. A man who represents himself as someone else has a fool for a spokesman.