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Trump’s retweets range far and wide, but how did a sex therapist become a three-time presidential favorite?

The Debrief: An occasional series offering reporters’ insights

A reporter photographs President Trump at the White House in September 2018.
A reporter photographs President Trump at the White House in September 2018. (Calla Kessler/The Washington Post)
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President Trump apparently has a thing for @SexCounseling.

Trump has recently retweeted posts from a California sex therapist, Dawn Michael, whose professional Twitter home is a mix of pro-Trump material and, well, other things.

The three retweets since January are emblematic of the president’s habit of amplifying online praise from random or troublesome corners of the Internet. He has been widely criticized for retweeting racially insensitive or allegedly anti-Semitic material — he denies any such intent. But his willingness to cast the presidential gaze and Twitter finger upon oddball figures and little-known commentators has attracted less notice.

And it also appears to be on the rise. So far in February, Trump’s retweets are outpacing his original tweets by about 2 to 1, topping 265 on Wednesday and including commentary from the likes of @HiredGun37 and @heelerhoney alongside Republican lawmakers, right-wing media figures, journalists, his sons and his campaign manager.

In the same period a year ago, Trump appears to have included only 21 retweets among 92 Twitter postings, and only one appears to be akin to the puzzling choices or otherwise obscure boosters he now promotes. On Feb. 12 last year, among a string of retweets sent from his iPhone near 10 p.m., Trump retweeted a video of jaguars lying in the sun, from the account @planetepics.

On Monday, he blasted out an assessment from @Sex­Counseling — “The people are happy with President Trump and they see how poorly he is being treated” — to @realDonald­Trump’s 72.4 million Twitter followers. By Tuesday afternoon, his retweet had itself been retweeted nearly 6,000 times.

Trump attacks federal judge, prosecutors in Twitter tirade defending Roger Stone

It is not clear what attracted Trump to Michael’s posts, but she appears among a circle of conservative pro-Trump Twitter users who regularly retweet one another. It is also not clear whether the name of her Twitter account had any bearing on Trump’s decision to retweet her.

Michael’s account links to her YouTube channel and a video about “Couples Sensual Touching” that might be best described as R-rated.

On her website, at, Michael calls herself “a nationally recognized relationship expert and certified clinical sexologist.”

“My mission is to help you resolve problems with your intimate life,” Michael says. “With 20 years of counseling experience, I have helped thousands of people improve their quality of life and marriage.”

She claims advanced degrees or certifications from the Institute for Advanced Studies in Human Sexuality and the American College of Sexologists. Neither are accredited by the American Psychological Association, spokeswoman Kim Mills said. The APA does not police who calls themselves a sex therapist or a “Certified Sexologist” as Michael’s LinkedIn profile identifies her.

Michael did not respond to requests for comment by phone and email.

Early in his presidency, Trump would post tweets but rarely responded or looked to Twitter for information. His staff would periodically bring him reports on how well tweets had done and would show him particularly friendly things to repost, according to a senior administration official who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the president’s Twitter use.

But it became “both an entrance and an exit” in 2018 as he would, on his own, dive through his replies to see who was praising him.

An aide said Trump has sometimes been taken aback by backlash to his retweets. Often, a string of retweets is not some grand statement — it’s just Trump scrolling and clicking, people close to the president said.

“If he sees it and it’s positive about him, he just posts it,” the administration official said. “It would never dawn on him to check and see who the person is.”

He also likes to use retweets to force journalists and critics to reckon with the size of his Twitter following, current and former officials said. For example, after a firefighters union endorsed Joe Biden last year, Trump went on a barrage of early-morning posts, amplifying firefighters who praised him instead.

Trump has mused to aides that he can mix it up on Twitter more than in real life — and “kind of just see how it goes,” a former senior administration official said. And there are accounts he somewhat regularly looks at for retweet potential, aides say.

But Trump has conceded in the past that he was a little too quick to hit the retweet button.

“A lot of the times, the bigger problem is the retweets,” he said last year to C-SPAN political editor Steve Scully. “You know, you retweet something that sounds good, but it turns out to be from a player that’s not the best player in the world. And that sort of causes a problem.”

Trump’s taste in retweets is varied. A recent selection of retweets includes the conservative legal group Judicial Watch and ABC News journalist Jonathan Karl. He has retweeted official Republican accounts alongside @RedPillReport, which posts pro-Trump material and conservative views that are sometimes racially tinged or sexually suggestive.

“Red-pilling” is a term that comes from the movie “The Matrix” and refers to a choice between a red pill that opens one’s eyes to an ugly reality and a blue pill that does not.

@RedPillReport returned the favor Tuesday, retweeting and commenting on a Trump insult directed at Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg.

“When a President can make you laugh . . . and fatten your 401K . . . you know you’ve got the right man!” the post said.

Trump has sometimes retweeted posts from accounts that were later suspended, or accounts that said they were associated with the Q-Anon conspiracy group.

Michael is not among the 47 people Trump himself follows on Twitter. Nor are any of the other otherwise little-known people he has retweeted recently. The common denominator is always expressions of support for Trump or criticism of his adversaries.

Late Tuesday, Trump retweeted and commented upon a post by @IsraelUSAforevr, an account that proudly notes its four presidential retweets at the top of its Twitter biography.

The original tweet endorsed the idea of pardons for convicted Trump associates Michael Flynn and Roger Stone.

“Prosecutorial misconduct?” Trump wrote in response, alongside other tweets complaining that Stone has been unfairly targeted.

Prasad Vana, an assistant professor at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, has studied online marketing techniques and said that retweeting is marketing of a sort.

“In general, the idea is to show that there is some consensus developing around an idea,” he said, “and so it’s a way of saying: ‘See? It’s not just me. It’s others who think like that.’ That is primarily the intention.”

Often, content that shocks or outrages is the most popular online, Vana said. That is not necessarily Trump’s intent, but a president retweeting an account called @SexCounseling might raise eyebrows, he said.

“We probably are biased more toward content that agrees with our own opinions, but when you’re on a big stage it is rather wise to vet some information before you put it out there,” Vana said.

Alice Crites contributed to this report.