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Column: ‘Diaper Don’? Trump’s supporters turn the tables on his puerile critics

Donald Trump with his hands raised
Former President Trump speaks to media as he returns to his trial at the Manhattan Criminal Court this month.
(Charly Triballeau / Associated Press)
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The political ascendance and staying power of Donald Trump have forced this country to confront so many existential questions:

Can our democracy survive another Trump administration?

Can an American president really and truly be above the law?

And: Do real men wear diapers?

We won’t know the answers to the first two questions for a while yet.

Opinion Columnist

Robin Abcarian

But thanks to Trump’s more rabid supporters, we can say with assurance that yes, real men do wear diapers. (And astronauts, of course, who call them “maximum absorbency garments.”)

Let me stipulate that I know nothing about Trump’s bladder, bowels or personal hygiene. I have never been close enough to the man to sniff out anything about that, nor would I ever hope to.

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However, the “Diaper Don” meme, which got its start on an entirely different basis, has become unavoidable lately on social media, and a running gag among his more puerile critics, who believe — or desperately want to believe — that Trump is incontinent.

The virulently anti-Trump Lincoln Project, predictably, has had a field day with the rumor, putting out a fake commercial and a blog item that begins, “Are you incontinent? Does your family hate you? Is your lawyer testifying against you? Do you face decades in jail? Then is there ever a product for you!”

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This jab would seem to be designed to strike hard at the vanity of a man who admits to no failings, weaknesses or physical infirmities. I mean, next to throwing up on the Japanese prime minister, pooping your pants is about as undignified as it gets.

The need to seem infallible — a hallmark of dictators throughout history — is an important part of Trump’s “I alone can fix it” self-mythologizing.

Remember his return to the White House after being treated for a serious bout of COVID-19 at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in 2020? In her 2022 book, “Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America,” New York Times journalist Maggie Haberman revealed that the president told aides he wanted to tear off his shirt on the White House balcony and reveal a Superman shirt underneath. He was talked out of it, but not before he’d instructed one of his aides to buy the costume.

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I must say, there is something transgressive about the reaction to Trump’s possible incontinence among his believers: They think it’s funny. In fact, they seem positively joyful about the possibility: They have taken to wearing large disposable diapers over their pants at campaign rallies. They sport T-shirts and hats that say “Real Men Wear Diapers” and “Diapers over Dems.” Somehow, on Planet MAGA, the diaper rumor has turned into a challenge that must be used to own the libs.

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“Just like the way his base has ‘taken back’ the former President’s legal troubles by embracing his mug shot photo, they seem to be accepting Trump’s rumored diaper wearing with shirts, hats and even adult diapers worn outside their clothes,” wrote the author of the blog “Dispatches from Trumpland” in April. (Stories in the British press, of course, report that Trump fans are wearing “nappies.”)

At an April rally in rural Pennsylvania, one man was photographed holding a six-foot black banner with the slogan in stark white. It was eerily reminiscent of those POW/MIA flags.

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With Trump’s legendary love for absurd opulence in mind, some of his fans have taken the diaper thing to the extreme. Last weekend, a woman at Trump’s rally at the South Jersey shore was photographed holding a humongous diaper made of gold lamé against her shorts.

The twist on the diaper rumor is reminiscent of the way Biden’s supporters have co-opted the phrase “Let’s go, Brandon,” and turned it into the “Dark Brandon” meme. (That phrase was accidentally coined in 2021 by a reporter at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama, who incorrectly described what race fans were chanting in the background.)

This is not the first time we’ve been treated to yucky anecdotes about the alleged gross behavior of presidential candidates: In 2020, Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar was accused by unnamed staff of eating her salad with a comb. Last year, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was captured by cameras wiping his nose before touching supporters. Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio was lampooned for his dry mouth when he dove for a water bottle during his response to President Obama’s State of the Union speech in 2013. (Two years later, on the campaign trail, Trump would mock Rubio: “He sweats more than any young person I’ve ever seen in my life.”)

And of course, President Biden has had the cringey tendency to squeeze the shoulders of any female within striking range.

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Jokes aside, I wonder if it’s possible that this silly campaign moment might actually help destigmatize adult diapers. For the many people who need them, possibly including Trump, they are no laughing matter. Or shouldn’t be, anyway.

@robinkabcarian

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