Being the personal physician to the president has to come with plenty of stress. Imagine being responsible for the care of the top official in the country — on a regular day that’s daunting. But add in a COVID-19 diagnosis, just weeks before an incredibly contentious presidential election, and those stress levels must skyrocket.
This level of heightened tension was evident at Saturday morning’s press conference as Dr. Sean Conley and the president’s team of healthcare providers gave a live update on Donald Trump’s condition from the steps of Walter Reed Medical Center, Mark Bowden, a human behavior and body language expert, told The List.
All the doctors “show signs of stress delivering their statements at a level that you would expect from this level of live media exposure,” Bowden said. He explained that they had written and prepared statements, making it easier “for them to stay on message.” But considering these people are military and doctors, they’re “used to sticking to the process and protocol and under some base line of stress,” he added.
Expert says Conley's stress spiked with media questions
If you were looking for outright signs of deception from Conley and the others, you wouldn’t have found much, said Bowden. When one of the doctors quoted Trump as saying that he said “I feel like I could walk out of here today,” there were “no signs of deception there,” Bowden observed. Likewise, when Conley indicated that President Trump is “up and active,” and that he had been fever free for 24 hours, Bowden detected no signs of deception there either.
However, “once questioned by media stress elevates for Conley,” Bowden pointed out. “Repetitive tapping of [his] palm on the lectern in a suppressive and self-soothing gesture.” Conley “obfuscates questions and gives broad answers on the subject of oxygen” Bowden said, pointing to when the doctor insisted that the president had not received oxygen today, “suggesting he may have on other days.” He continued, “The media pursue this and [Conley] uses a smile to placate them and try to stop them pursuing this. When pursued more around ‘Thursday’ he uses ‘what day is it today?’ potentially to stall for time in order to give himself time to prepare the answer. This can suggest that he needs to create an answer for this rather than deliver a clear fact.”
It’s probably not a surprise then, what with questions being avoided and obfuscated, and creating answers rather than citing facts, that most of us walked away from Conley’s press conference feeling like we had more question marks than answers.
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