Donald and Melania Trump look very serious.

The Faux Outrage Over Pamela Karlan’s Barron Trump Joke Is Total Garbage

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During yesterday’s House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing, Professor Pamela Karlan used a number of metaphors and other easily accessible tactics to break down bigger constitutional issues. In one case, she also used a pun.

When speaking about how the country’s founders wanted to make the position of President different from that of King, she explained that a president cannot bestow nobility. “So while the president can name his son Barron, he can’t make him a baron,” she said. And cue the outrage.

The tweets started rolling in almost immediately from rightwing media and political figures, including Melania Trump and her husband’s press secretary.

Rep. Matt Gaetz chastized Karlan during the hearing, saying her “little joke” makes her “look mean.”

Karlan apologized later in the hearing. “I want to apologize for what I said earlier about the president’s son. It was wrong of me to do that,” she said, adding, “I wish the president would apologize, obviously, for the things that he’s done that’s wrong, but I do regret having said that.”

But her apology was unnecessary. Was this the best joke ever? No. It’s the kind of quip I imagine she’s said before to her students and elicited groans and some chuckles—much like the reaction inside the hearing room. But to say that it was “mean” or that it somehow invaded the privacy of the President’s son is just ludicrous.

The pearl-clutching brings to mind memories of the outrage over Michelle Wolf’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner joke about Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ eye makeup that wasn’t actually about eye makeup but rather about how frequently and casually she would lie to defend Donald Trump—but that conservatives and Republicans pretended was an attack on Huckabee Sanders’ appearance. Which it wasn’t. Just how Karlan’s joke isn’t about Barron and it definitely has nothing to do with his privacy. At most, it’s a light jab at how obvious it is that Trump wishes he were a king.

I’m not a fan of the they did worse stuff so we can do similar bad stuff argument but, again, Karlan’s joke was not at a child’s expense. She was not mocking him. She said absolutely nothing worth being angry about. These same people who are suddenly outraged over the mere mention of Barron’s name, on the other hand …

It’s such a weird move to pretend to be so concerned about the privacy of a child that Republicans will trot him out so performatively and hold him up as their shield against something so innocuous. (Again.)

(image: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.