Op-Ed: Guilt by Communication in Talk of Trump Pardon


We all know that a matador waves a red cape at a bull to enrage it into charging the heroic bullfighter.

What we should know is that all bulls are color-blind to red, and thus the color of the fabric doesn’t influence their emotional state. It’s the movement of the cape that induces the bull to charge, meaning the cape could be heliotrope for all the bull cares.

By repetitio​n, a myth has become “fact.”

So, too, is the case when conservative pundits, talking heads and the media in general ask Republican presidential candidates if they would pardon Donald Trump should he be convicted of the crimes of which he has been accused.

The question, by repetition, creates the idea that the former president’s guilt is already established. Repeatedly asking it suggests that a guilty verdict is inevitable, and thus a pardon necessary.

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This question, like the red cape, is being waved by media toreadors for the purposes of eliciting a charge from Trump’s rivals in the Republican primary race.

To date, GOP hopefuls including former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy have gone on the record to say they would issue such a pardon or would be inclined to do so.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has said he would consider it.

The saintly Mike Pence, Trump’s former vice president, couldn’t find the nerve to agree to the pardon scenario. To be fair, I’m not sure Mr. Pence has the nerve to cross a deserted street against the light.

In creating this litmus test question, these inquisitors are embedding in the public’s mind the idea that the charges against Trump — either Alvin Bragg’s New York indictment or Jack Smith’s D.C. version — are legitimate.

Worse yet, the repetition can lead to an intellectualized conclusion that Trump is in fact guilty.

Similarly, 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin was quoted as saying, “I can see Russia from my house.” This quote became the mainstream media’s method of portraying the former Alaska governor as ignorant. Repeated incessantly on the airwaves its authenticity was rarely questioned.

The problem is, she never said it.

It was actor Tina Fey, portraying Palin in a “Saturday Night Live” sketch, who uttered that quote-worthy line. It’s another case of myth becoming fact by repeated retelling as though it were true.

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The “pardon” question, as it regards Trump, will result in the same outcome. A clearly false premise becomes the basis of broad public opinion. Does anyone remember the Russia hoax?

Whether it be by conservative hosts or progressive mouthpieces, this question has become a way of demonstrating the political bona fides of Trump’s Republican opponents. These candidates, by agreeing to the pardon scenario, are attempting to woo Trump supporters.

Now, that’s weird. Why would anyone support a candidate whose principal claim to your vote is their willingness to pardon the candidate you support?

Even worse, why would anyone support someone whose acquiescence to pardoning Trump implies that the charges he faces are legitimate? The pardoning proposed by these candidates suggests that the weaponization of the DOJ against the former president, if not OK, is an accepted standard of federal conduct.

The proper way to discuss the issue, and a way that will not facilitate the evolution of Trump’s presumed guilt from myth to fact, is to reject the premise of the inquiry.

Here is my suggestion on how to address the issue. If asked I would respond as follows:

“The indictments against Trump are politically motivated, unfounded in the law, and illegitimate. No finding of guilt can occur where no crime has been committed. It’s reckless to discuss pardons where the charges are baseless and where the actions of government agents are unjustifiable.”

On second thought, let’s take a cue from the bullfighting professionals. If​ asked the pardon question, answer, “Olé.”

The views expressed in this opinion article are those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website. If you are interested in contributing an Op-Ed to The Western Journal, you can learn about our submission guidelines and process here.

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Steve Piccirillo is a husband, father and patriot. His writings have appeared in several publications. His first novel, "Evil Stalks the Emerald City," is now available on Amazon. He is a former police officer and small business owner. He is a twice-elected school board director and is active in local politics.