There’s a word I almost never use, partly out of uncertainty, along no doubt with many other words whose meanings play misty with me. That word is ‘egregious’ and it was used by Donald Trump in a statement atoning for the inadequacy of an earlier statement.
The protest by white supremacist groups in Charlottesville, Virginia, led to the death of civil rights protester Heather Heyer, when a car was driven at her, also injuring 19 other protesters.
Trump’s first statement apportioned blame on all sides, and caused general consternation by its refusal to criticise the white supremacists – hardly surprising, in a sense, as his presidential campaign last year was horribly divisive in the way it stoked hatred and cheered the far right in the States.
Trump was later prodded into action to stiffly recite a statement clearly not from his own hand. And you could tell that by the way those words discomfited him.
Here is part of what he said: “As I said on Saturday, we condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence. It has no place in America.”
That egregious was a dead giveaway. Has that word ever before fallen from his fat lips? It doesn’t often fall from my thinner lips, but I have just looked it up, and refreshed the meaning: “outstandingly bad; shocking”.
The word comes from the Latin and means “standing out from the flock”, and was thought to have been used originally in an ironic sense. And this is where it gets interesting, for egregious has another, archaic meaning of “remarkably good”.
Unlikely that Trump knew that, but it does add another layer to his forced apology.
Anyway, this morning’s update from the idiot maelstrom blows away any goodwill and unity earned from his earlier forced apology. In the latest extraordinary press conference, the president veered into an off-road rant, blaming what he called the ‘alt-left’ and going out of his way apparently to defend neo-Nazis.
As he blundered on, Trump returned to blaming all sides, saying in a typically Trumpian line: “You had people that were very fine people on all sides.”
Tellingly, in seemingly offering succour to “very fine” white supremacists, Trump united the country – against him. His new outburst earned condemnation and disgust from all sides, mostly strongly from within his own Republican ranks.
Here’s a typical reaction, from senator Marco Rubio of Florida: “Mr President, you can’t allow #WhiteSupremacists to share only part of blame. They support idea which cost nation & word so much pain.”
The only words of comfort for Trump came from David Duke, the former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, who tweeted: “Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville & condemn the leftist terrorists…”
With friends like that, Trump really has backed himself into a fetid corner. How much longer can this freak show presidency last? If I might call on that word, he is easily the most egregious president in US history.
The last incumbent, Barack Obama, took to Twitter to condemn racism after the far-right rally, quoting Nelson Mandela to say: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion.”
That has become the most liked tweet ever, with more that 2.9 million users endorsing the sentiment.
That trumps one supportive tweet from a racist former leader of the Kl Klux Klan.