The New York Times, Trump’s 'Mental Instability,' and the Curious Case of Bandy X. Lee

July 3rd, 2024 9:45 AM

The Daily Signal’s Friday scoop, “Judge in Trump Trial Gets Risk Assessment by Hostile Psychiatrist,” was timely, considering Trump opponent Biden’s obvious mental decline. It also may have triggered metaphorical PTSD in close readers of the New York Times.

The name of that “hostile psychiatrist” is Bandy X. Lee, and until her irresponsible diagnosis of political figures from afar got her fired from Yale Medical School, she was quite the radical gadfly on the Letters and news pages of the Times.

The Daily Signal’s Fred Lucas wrote:

Five mental health professionals, some of whom already accused Donald Trump of being “dangerous,” prepared a risk assessment for New York state Judge Juan Merchan to consider in his July 11 sentencing decision on Trump, according to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Bandy X. Lee, a longtime critic of the former president.

That certainly sounds like a violation of the so-called Goldwater Rule, a statement of ethics restraining psychiatrists from speculating about the mental state of public figures they have not personally evaluated. The guidance came in the aftermath of the 1964 presidential campaign when a magazine published psychiatric diagnoses regarding Republican Sen. Barry Goldwater.

Lucas continued:

It isn’t clear whether all five are psychiatrists or may have other training. Their risk assessment could be a factor in the severity of Merchan’s sentence for Trump in Manhattan Criminal Court, which could be up to 20 years in prison for all 34 felony counts on which he was convicted last month.

Lee edited the book “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 37 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President,” first released in 2017. In May, she published a new book titled “The Psychology of Trump Contagion: An Existential Threat to American Democracy and All Humankind.”

Contributors to that 2017 book, including Lee and Harvard psychiatrist Leonard Glass, have used it to leverage themselves onto the Times’ Letters page, as NewsBusters noted earlier this year. But the Daily Signal piece suggests far more serious potential consequences regarding this ongoing Times' smearing of Trump as a mental case.

Even the paper’s Trump-loathing editorial board thought Lee’s diagnosis of Trump from afar went too far and risked harmful stereotyping of mental illness (which didn’t stop the Letters page from printing her and her colleagues).

In 2020 Lee went too far herself and was fired from the Yale School of Medicine for her bizarre, pseudo-scientific diagnosis of criminal defense lawyer and Trump defender Alan Dershowitz on Twitter. As the Times itself reported: “In January 2020, she compared Mr. Dershowitz’s wording with Mr. Trump’s own prominent use of the word ‘perfect,’ suggesting in a tweet that it could reflect a ‘shared psychosis’ through which Mr. Dershowitz had taken on what she said was Mr. Trump’s ‘grandiosity and delusional-level impunity.’”

Lee even made the news section on January 6, 2018, cited by White House reporter Peter Baker and political correspondent Maggie Haberman: “Trump, Defending His Mental Fitness, Says He’s a ‘Very Stable Genius’.

Here’s the passage, in which the reporters do their own uninformed psycho-analysis of Trump:

Mr. Trump’s self-absorption, impulsiveness, lack of empathy, obsessive focus on slights, tenuous grasp of facts and penchant for sometimes far-fetched conspiracy theories have generated endless op-ed columns, magazine articles, books, professional panel discussions and cable television speculation.

“The level of concern by the public is now enormous,” said Bandy X. Lee, a forensic psychiatrist at Yale School of Medicine and editor of “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President,” a book released last fall. “They’re telling us to speak more loudly and clearly and not to stop until something is done because they are terrified.”

Perhaps the most arrogant and disturbing letter was one signed solely by Lee, which appeared on December 1, 2017.

Ordinarily, we carry out a routine process for treating people who are dangerous: containment, removal from access to weapons and an urgent evaluation. We have been unable to do so because of Mr. Trump’s status as president. But the power of the presidency and the type of arsenal he has access to should raise greater alarm, not less.

“Containment” of a political opponent for being mentally ill? That sounds....authoritarian.