It’s really easy to believe Donald Trump hasn’t read a book. It’s marginally less easy, of course, when that book was written by Adolf Hitler. So what, then, should we make of Trump’s repeated insistence that he’s never read Hitler’s seminal manifesto, “Mein Kampf”?
On the one hand—in wording that strongly echoes his most ardent fans’ fave Teutonic twit—Trump keeps saying immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country,” and that’s far too coherent a phrase for him to have come up with on his own. On a good day, the best Trump’s brain might conjure is “brown man bad, steal my Lucky Charms.” On the other hand, Tony Schwartz, who
ghost ghoul-wrote Trump’s “Art of the Deal” and spent 18 months closely observing the guy, once remarked, “I seriously doubt that Trump has ever read a book straight through in his adult life.”
But while the truth remains clouded, we do know that Trump denying he knows things, people, and organizations he’s almost certainly familiar with is part of a very well-established pattern. On Friday, Trump joined conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, who’s about what you’d get if Trump’s personal bathtub attendant had an 8chan podcast, to blurt out that he’d never read “Mein Kampf,” even though literally no one was asking.
Facing criticism for repeatedly harnessing rhetoric once used by Adolf Hitler to argue that immigrants entering the U.S. illegally are “poisoning the blood of our country,” Trump insisted he had no idea that one of the world’s most reviled and infamous figures once used similar words. The Nazi dictator spoke of impure Jewish blood “poisoning” Aryan German blood to dehumanize Jews and justify the systemic murder of millions during the Holocaust.
“I never knew that Hitler said it,” Trump told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Friday, volunteering once again that he never read Hitler’s biographical manifesto, “Mein Kampf.”
Trump’s assertion that he knows so little about one of the 20th century’s most documented figures is notable for someone seeking the presidency, a role steeped in and shaped by history. But claiming ignorance, particularly when it comes to people who espouse racist or antisemitic rhetoric, is a tactic Trump has repeatedly deployed when aiming to distance himself from uncomfortable storylines.
So how weird is it that Trump keeps blurting out that he’s never read “Mein Kampf”? He said it, unprompted, at a recent rally, too, and it’s a really strange thing to volunteer. It’s as if Speaker Mike Johnson countered accusations that he’s a skosh creepy by saying he’s never visited three different Walmarts between 3 and 5 AM on a Wednesday to buy a roll of duct tape, two shovels, and 14 bags of premium quicklime.
In other words, methinks the malady doth protest too much.
That said, as the AP notes in the above-linked story, Trump has a long history of distancing himself from racist organizations and people when it becomes abundantly clear that he’s their unquestioned lodestar.
For instance, in February 2016, after former Ku Klux Klan pooh-bah David Duke endorsed him, Trump pretended he had no idea what CNN host Jake Tapper was asking him, saying, “Just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke, OK? I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists.”
Uh huh. Sure, Klan.
During the same interview, when asked if he’d take a moment to condemn his white supremacist supporters, Trump said he’d “have to look at the group. I mean, I don’t know what group you’re talking about.” And as the AP points out, he “continued to repeat that assertion even after Tapper said he was referring to the KKK.”
In 2020, he claimed he knew nothing about QAnon, but he refused to dismiss the group’s outlandish conspiracy theories as false. One of those theories, of course, is that satanic Democrats run a global pedophilia ring and that Trump, a confirmed rapist, is trying to stop them. Meanwhile, Trump continued to play footsie with the organization, at one point saying, “I heard that these are people that love our country.”
He also claimed he was unacquainted with the Proud Boys, whom he infamously name-dropped during 2020’s first presidential debate. “I don’t know who the Proud Boys are,” he said after loudly instructing them to “stand back and stand by.”
Of course, we know from credible sources (i.e., everyone and anyone who’s not Donald Trump) that our ex-pr*sident has been a big Hitler fanboy for some time.
In 1990, Vanity Fair reported that Trump’s ex-wife Ivana (may she rest in peace up until the moment Trump decides he wants to put in a new sand trap) claimed Trump had kept a book of Hitler speeches in a bedside cabinet for light reading. Though when Vanity Fair writer Marie Brenner asked him about it, Trump insisted it wasn’t a book of Hitler speeches but a copy of … wait for it! … “Mein Kampf.”
“Did your cousin John give you the Hitler speeches?” [Brenner] asked Trump.
Trump hesitated. “Who told you that?”
“I don’t remember,” [Brenner] said.
“Actually, it was my friend Marty Davis from Paramount who gave me a copy of Mein Kampf, and he’s a Jew.” (“I did give him a book about Hitler,” Marty Davis said. “But it was My New Order, Hitler’s speeches, not Mein Kampf. I thought he would find it interesting. I am his friend, but I’m not Jewish.”)
Later, Trump returned to this subject. “If I had these speeches, and I am not saying that I do, I would never read them.”
On another occasion, Trump reportedly told his former White House chief of staff John Kelly that “Hitler did a lot of good things.” What exactly he meant is unclear—though given Trump’s tenuous grasp of history, it’s always possible he thinks Hitler invented Hot Pockets. So maybe we can give him the benefit of the doubt on this one.
Meanwhile, Trump continued to insist to Hewitt’s radio audience that he’s never read Hitler, even though his rhetoric about immigrants “poisoning the blood of our country” is strongly reminiscent of Hitler’s assertion in “Mein Kampf” that “all great cultures of the past perished only because the originally creative race died out from blood poisoning.”
“I’m not a student of Hitler. I never read his works,” he told Hewitt. “They say that he said something about blood. He didn’t say it the way I said it, either, by the way. It’s a very different kind of a statement. What I’m saying when I talk about people coming into our country is they are destroying our country.”
Yeah, it’s not that different, though. And maybe it’s about time someone tells him that being pig-ignorant about basic history and coming up with Nazi rhetoric independently of Hitler is not really the flex he thinks it is.
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