There have been a lot of days since Donald Trump was elected president of the United States when I’ve been struck with waves of nausea. The prospect of an impulsive president tweeting his way into nuclear war with North Korea will do that for you. So will the sight of a proudly ignorant and gleefully nasty person declaring that he was right to have called all immigrants from Mexico rapists. But on a personal level, I’m not sure I’ve been hit harder than I was Thursday afternoon when the latest Trump scandal broke.
It turns out that President Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen wasn’t the only person apparently doling out hush money to keep embarrassing stories about his client out of the press. Ronan Farrow, who has been on quite a tear for the New Yorker, reported Thursday that American Media Inc. paid Dino Sajudin, who had worked as a doorman at Trump Tower, $30,000 for a story, then buried it rather than publishing it. In a statement, Sajudin told the world what he’d told the reporter for American Media: “I can confirm that while working at Trump World Tower I was instructed not to criticize President Trump’s former housekeeper due to a prior relationship she had with President Trump which produced a child.”
This is not exactly definitive proof that such a relationship happened, or that such a child exists. And while I understand the temptation to find out who this mysterious Trump offspring might be, and to learn absolutely everything about who this person is, what their life is like and what contact they’ve had with their extraordinarily famous father, I have a plea for all of us: Resist that temptation at all costs.
This is not to say that there isn’t legitimate reporting to be done on this story. Trump’s reported extramarital relationships have relevance both for his ongoing relationship with his evangelical supporters and for his marriage to his third wife, Melania Trump. The efforts to cover them up, most prominently through Cohen’s payment to adult-film actress Stephanie Clifford, speak to how Trumpworld functioned, and whether Trump associates may have violated the law in an effort to get him elected. If Trump did have an ongoing relationship with someone who was doing domestic work for him, that could paint a fuller portrait of his disturbing pattern of behavior toward women. It could also shed light on the particular vulnerabilities that women in these professions face.
But I’m not sure what learning more about a secret Trump kid could tell us that we don’t already know. Would we need this person’s testimonial to understand that Trump is functionally an absent parent? Marla Maples, Trump’s second wife and the mother of his daughter Tiffany, has made that crystal clear for years. Do we need any more evidence that Trump regards raising children as women’s work than what is reported to be his dismissive attitude about Melania Trump’s pregnancy? Do we need more proof that growing up a Trump and trying to find a place in the family’s empire is a strange and potentially distorting experience? Ivanka, Donald Jr. and Eric seem like public display enough of that.
In the hunger for Trump-related scandal that seems to have consumed so much of America, it’s easy to forget that other people can get hurt along with our reckless, allegedly profligate president. If this child actually exists, I cannot imagine the pain of finding out your parentage in this fashion, or of having the closely held truth of your origins revealed to the public without a care for who you are and the choices you and your mother have made. Again, if this person even exists, he or she deserves to be safe and to have his or her privacy and mental health taken into consideration.
And the rest of us should think about what’s best for us, too. If the knowledge that Trump is a wretched, depraved individual in his private life is the fuel driving you to protest, call your representatives about legislation and maybe even run for office yourself. But if gorging ourselves on the ugly details of the president’s intimate life is providing us with some sort of psychic sedation, maybe we need another way of dealing with the Trump era.