In the wake of the devastating shooting that took place in Parkland, Florida on February 14th, President Donald Trump has been ridiculed for ignoring the victims’ funerals, tweeting about the Russia investigation, and offering little more than thoughts and prayers. But the president appears to be trying to change that. On February 20th, Trump spoke out in favor of banning bump stocks, and on February 21st he held a listening session to discuss gun control reform. However, photos of Trump’s listening session notes seem to reveal that the president needed reminders of basic empathy.
Professional photographers captured the handwritten notes on camera. The list, written on official White House letterhead, consists of questions for Trump to ask the attendees of the session, who included survivors of past school shootings and family members of victims. The list of questions included: “What would you most want me to know about your experience?” “What can we do to help you feel safe?” “and even, “I hear you.”
During the listening session, Trump proposed arming teachers who had firearms training. He also advocated for more mental health institutions. Throughout the session, he listened to attendees’ concerns and responded. After the session, he tweeted that he would “always remember” the experience of talking to the survivors and victims’ families.
The backlash over Trump’s listening session notes was swift.
Many tweeted that the notes were a sign of the president’s pronounced lack of empathy.
And other Twitter users even joked that the listening session notes proved Trump is a crisis actor.
Trump has a long track record of less-than-empathetic responses in the face of tragedy. After a woman was killed by a white supremacist in Charlottesville, Virginia in August, Trump said that there was violence “on many sides.” And in June, Trump criticized London Mayor Sadiq Khan after a recent bombing, taking Khan’s response to the bombing out of context. But the idea that Trump might need notes to express empathy toward shooting victims is astonishing. We hope that the president will learn to say “I hear you” without needing a cue card.