Melania Trump is reportedly incensed over the posting of a YouTube video alleging that her son is autistic and had a lawyer threaten to sue the autistic man who produced the video. The video went viral after Rosie O’Donnell tweeted at Donald Trump about it, saying:
What an amazing opportunity to bring attention to the AUTISM epidemic.
O’Donnell has since deleted the tweet. Trump himself has gained notoriety for adding “vaccines cause autism” to the lengthy list of conspiracy theories he favors–he even donated actual money to an anti-vaccine group–and for meeting during his presidential campaignwith the grasping leaders of the modern anti-vaccine movement. His interest in autism has raised speculation in various circles about what might motivate it, as the only things that genuinely seems to motivate him relate only to himself.
James Hunter, the person who posted the video, which has now been taken down, said that he had intended to use it as a way to stop people from bullying the Trumps’ youngest son, who is 10. The video suggested that people had been commenting rudely about the boy’s behavior during various public events, including the Republican National Convention and his father’s acceptance speech.
Hunter said he made the video intending to explain that people should stop saying that Donald Trump’s youngest son was a “brat” who didn’t know how to behave himself and that the boy’s behavior was probably because he was on the autism spectrum.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, TMZ broke the story of Melania Trump’s threats to sue. Her attorney told the Hollywood Reporter:
A video was posted at YouTube recently speculating that [the boy] might be autistic. He is not. The video includes the hashtag ‘StopTheBullying’ but yet the video itself is bullying by making false statements and speculation about a 10-year-old boy for the purpose of harassing him and his parents.
The stated purpose of the video, which I have seen, was to stop the online bullying of the child over his perceived “rude” or “inappropriate” behaviors by explaining that autism might be a factor. In his video, Hunter did make a passionate plea for people to look past their conventional notions of behavior and try to understand that factors other than “rich-kid-brattiness” can underlie them.
In response to the legal threat from our future first lady, Hunter has removed the video and replaced it with one that offers his apology and retracts the claims in the original, which had garnered more than 3 million views. In the replacement, Hunter says:
As someone who was diagnosed at age 5 and has gone through bullying myself, I would NEVER do something like that. I made this because I truly believed Barron was on the spectrum, and I wanted people to stop bullying him over his “weird” behavior and explain to them that it might actually be due to a condition.
Several people behaved badly in this scenario. Rosie O’Donnell tried to use this ‘revelation’ to drag Donald Trump about his child’s alleged autism and, once again, called autism an “epidemic,” which it is not. The term is offensive to autistic people.
Melania Trump seems to have viewed the conclusions in the video as just about the most awful thing anyone could say about anyone (it isn’t) and trained her firepower via attorney threats on the autistic man who made it. And James Hunter, of course, broke two important rules:No armchair diagnoses, and never, ever bring minor children into it.
Of those three, it’s difficult to decide who made the greatest misstep, but it’s clear who has now done the right thing, and that’s James Hunter. And then there’s the charge of bullying, something Melania Trump has said she wants to address in her upcoming national role, with a focus on cyberbullying. I’ll leave it to the reader to determine which participants in this scenario were the bullies and which ones were the bullied.