One of President Trump’s favorite ways to undercut or demean things he doesn’t like is to refer to them as “so-called.” The most famous recent example of this came with his dismissal of the “so-called” judge that overturned his executive order on immigration. On Tuesday evening he used the moniker to dismiss another political opponent: critics who have been peppering Republican town hall meetings over the past few weeks.
Here, in reverse chronological order, is everything that Donald Trump has referred to as “so-called” on Twitter — and our analysis of whether that so-called thing is actually that thing or not.
Are the so-called angry crowds actually angry crowds? Not every attendee is angry, certainly, and your definition of “crowd” may differ from Trump’s, but generally groups like the one below are both sincerely angry and sincerely crowding a town hall.
Is the so-called judge actually a judge? He is, which is what gave him the power to overturn Trump’s immigration ban.
Was the so-called Russian hacking actually Russian hacking? There is good evidence that the hacking of the Democratic National Committee was committed by hackers linked to Russian intelligence services. The hacking of Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s email is thought to have been committed by Russian state actors as well, although the evidence provided by the government publicly hasn’t made that case completely. If Trump is taking issue with the word “hacking,” he may be more right. One might refer to such illegal access as “spearphishing,” rather than hacking.
Were the so-called A-list celebrities who wanted tickets to the inauguration actually A-list celebrities? The celebrities that actually attended the inauguration were not A-list, by any robustly objective standard. Trump is implying that big stars wanted tickets but he told them no — and also doesn’t think they’re big stars. It’s hard to evaluate the veracity of that, although I have hunch about how true it is.
Is the so-called popular vote actually a popular vote? In the sense that it measures the vote of the people — which is the root of the word — yes. In the sense that it’s a popularity contest? Well, also yes.
Is the so-called Commission on Presidential Debates actually a commission on presidential debates? Yes.
Were the so-called Obama years actually Obama years? Yes, in the sense that they were the years that Barack Obama was in office.
Are the so-called leaders actually leaders? There are two senses of the word “leader.” There’s the official sense — the president is the leader of the country — and there’s the literal sense. Do America’s leaders actually lead Americans through their daily lives? Answering this is left as an exercise for the reader.
And from earlier:
Is the so-called carbon footprint actually a carbon footprint? No. It’s a figure of speech — and, therefore, “so-called” is a fair description.
Are Frank Luntz’s so-called focus groups actually focus groups? Assuming they are groups that are asked to focus on a subject and offer their opinions, yes.
Is so-called climate change actually a change to the climate? According to scientists, yes. (That’s a NASA link, so click it while you can.)
Are the so-called moderate Syrian rebels actually moderate? Trump was echoing a news report that was popular on conservative media sites in the summer of 2014. The moderates at issue denied the allegation. If so, they probably still qualified as “moderate.”
Is America’s so-called leader actually a leader? See above.
Is so-called friendly fire actually friendly fire? In the sense that the fire came from friendly forces, yes. In the broader sense of ascribing emotional significance to inanimate bullets, no.
Are so-called journalists who make up lies actually journalists? No, a person who makes up lies is not a journalist — at least if the lies are meant to comprise his or her journalism. Some journalists lie in other contexts, though, which I can say affirmatively as the world’s most handsome journalist.
Is so-called Earth Day actually Earth Day? Sure — because that’s what it’s called. This is another example when “so-called” is a perfectly apt description.
Was the so-called comedy routine actually a comedy routine? Trump is implying that the video below is not funny.
He is incorrect.
Are the so-called rebels actually rebels? This is apparently a reference to the conflict in Syria. Trump appears to be disparaging the forces battling the Assad regime, implying that they are somehow not rebellious? Anyway, someone in rebellion is a rebel, so the answer to the question is yes.
Are the so-called scientists actually scientists? The scientists that study climate change and its effects are indeed scientists. Climate is different from weather, and one cold day in May or one hot day in January don’t prove climate models right or wrong.
Was the so-called fiscal cliff actually a fiscal cliff? It is not! America was barreling toward a precipice, but only figuratively. And therefore, in this early example of Trump using the expression “so-called,” he was using it perfectly correctly.
To complain about politics, of course.