Donald Trump has apologised for re-tweeting anti-Muslim videos from the far-right group Britain First – but did he really mean it?
Body language expert Judi James has pored over the clips of US President’s TV interview with Good Morning Britain presenter Piers Morgan.
She’s examined every frame of his apology for retweeting Britain First to find out what he might not have said.
The incident led to a huge diplomatic row between the US and Britain and strained an already tense relationship with the Prime Minister.
But his body language has revealed that Trump’s apology might be quite a bit more pre-planned than it first seemed, and he might not be that keen on Theresa May after all.
These are the signs that the world’s most powerful man couldn’t help but give away, whether he wanted to or not.
Read Judi James’ thoughts on the key moments of the interview below.
Did he REALLY mean his apology over Britain First retweets?
Political apologies are normally incongruent and either over-acted or mealy-mouthed and awash with what are called ‘swerves’.
These are either verbal or non-verbal get-outs that signal a rejection of the behaviour but acceptance of the fact that the politician regrets the result of that behaviour.
Trump’s body language generally defines the word ‘alpha’ so you might expect some aggression at being called out to apologise on TV and therefore the risk of losing face in public.
It’s clear from his body language that this ‘challenge’ to apologise over his tweets causes him no obvious anger or discomfort though, leading me to suspect that he saw the question coming. He takes the demand under the chin.
His body positioning doesn’t change and he remains sitting forward in his chair and close to Morgan, signaling a desire to clear the point up.
He re-frames the question to take control of it though, meaning that by managing and personally re-defining the subject of the apology he can then apologise in a congruent body language manner about the ‘horrible people’.
As he re-frames and then makes his re-framed apology his eyes dart to the right five times.
Body language is not a precise science but often an eye-dart to the left can suggests accessing memory and to the right more imaginative thinking.
This eye direction at these points in Trump’s apology though could signal some genuine decisions about what Trump decides as ‘knowing nothing about the ‘horrible people’ though, meaning his body language is cleverly congruent with his message.
The eye-dart could also suggest a desire to find the nearest exit but on balance I’d call it as suggesting that – as he says – this is information he had after the event rather than before it.
Trump also shakes his head as he apologises. Gestures like this are often picked up as incongruent, i.e. that he is agreeing verbally to apologise but saying ‘no’ with his body language.
However Trump’s re-framing of the question means his body language ‘no’ could be affirming the fact that he, in the words of Fawlty Towers’ Manuel: ‘Knows nothing’.
He then re-boots his power right at the end with a small chin-poke."
Does President Trump really think Theresa May is ‘doing a good job’
Here Trump sets out to endorse May but his body language is incongruent enough to suggest some reservations.
He begins to say ‘She’s been doing a great job’ but swiftly self-polices, changing it to ‘I think she’s been doing a very good job.
He adds a shoulder-shrug as he says this which is an ambiguous ‘who knows’ gesture to suggest he’s prepared to wait and see in terms of total endorsement.
He also adds verbal fillers that dilute the impact of his opinions, adding the word ‘Actually’ to his statement that ‘We have a very good relationship.’ (This would be a difference similar to telling someone you love them or telling them you ‘actually’ love them.)
When Trump talks about coming to our defense militarily his blink rate increases and he rocks gently backwards and forwards in his chair, suggesting adrenalin caused by aggressive arousal.
His emotions look congruent at this point suggesting this might be a key factor in his ‘special relationship’.
Does he really not care about Brits opposing a state visit?
Trump keeps his hands in a downward steeple position between his legs throughout these clips, suggesting a suppressed desire to be in charge.
Steepling is a high-status gesture although held down like this is can be seen as a warning that the power is being loaned away for a short while to be re-booted at any time.
When the subject of his visit to the UK comes up Trump begins to tap his steepled fingers together slightly, forming a metronomic gesture that can signal impatience or irritation, suggesting the ‘I don’t care’ claim that comes later could just be bluff.
Trump raises his eyebrows in a brow-shrug in a response of what looks like incredulity when Morgan tells him Robert Mugabe got invited, suggesting that both surprised and possibly hurt him but when he mentions the word ‘ban’ he performs a shoulder-shrug of what looks like bravado.
If Morgan was trying to wind him up at the stage he might have succeeded although Trump did his best to hide it.
- President Trump – The Piers Morgan Interview airs Sunday 28th January at 10pm on ITV produced by ITV Studios Daytime