The Problem With Eric Trump's Theory About His Father's Behavior

October 11th 2016

Kyle Jaeger

In an effort to defend his father's widely criticized leaked audio about women, Eric Trump blamed the Republican presidential nominee's personality type. And in a slight twist on the "locker room banter" defense, Eric Trump said "that’s what happens when alpha personalities are in the same presence."


Here's Eric Trump's full comment, first reported by The Gazette.

"[L]isten, my father apologized for it. He was right to apologize for it, and I'm glad he apologized for it. At the same time, if you look at her track record with women, it's horrible. It's absolutely horrible. At the same time, I think it's locker room banter. I think sometimes when guys are together they get carried away, and sometimes that's what happens when alpha personalities are in the same presence. At the same time, I'm not saying it's right. It's not the person that he is."

For a moment, let's accept the premise that Donald Trump is a "type-A" personality, also known as an "alpha personality." While that characterization has been called into question, there's no doubt that Trump shares many personality traits with the so-called alpha male — ambition, impatience, and an obsession with status and time management, for example. But could a personality type explain Trump's casual approval of behavior that, by definition, qualifies as sexual assault?

Nope. One of the leading experts on personality types — Dr. Meyer Friedman, a cardiologist and researcher best known for his work linking type-A personalities to physical health problems later in life — listed the two most serious dangers associated with alpha personalities in a 1996 book "Type A Behavior: Its Diagnosis and Treatment."

  1. Impatience, which "becomes so intense that it creates and sustains a chronic sense of irritation or exasperation."
  2. Free-floating hostility. Friedman used the term free-floating "because of the ubiquity and triviality of the incidents that evoke hostility."

Those traits might explain some features of Trump's candidacy — he attacked high-ranking Republicans who criticized his lewd comments from 2005 in an early morning Twitter rant on Tuesday, for instance; that's one of many examples of Trump's short fuse that Democrats have seized upon to cast the nominee as temperamentally unfit for office. That said, it falls short of explaining his belief that celebrities are entitled to grab women by the genitals without consent.

The "alpha personality" argument is the latest in a series of defenses that attempt to normalize Trump's remarks. At the outset, the Trump campaign tried to get ahead of the controversy by dismissing the recorded conversation as "locker room banter." Eric Trump took that defense to the next bizarre level, pinning blame on "personality."

RELATED: One Tweet About Rape Culture Exposes the Problem with Mike Pence