Trump’s Malignant Narcissism, Paranoia, Lack of Empathy, Fit Psychological Profile of a Cult Leader

Interview with Steven Hassan, a mental health professional and author of the new book, "The Cult of Trump,” conducted by Scott Harris.

As Donald Trump confronts the ongoing House impeachment inquiry and the possible end of his presidency over the snowballing Ukraine extortion scandal, the president retains firm support from about 40 percent of Americans, according to recent polls.  While Trump has been the target of multiple investigations for allegations of collusion with Russia during the 2016 election, paying off a porn actress to keep her quiet about a sexual affair, obstruction of justice and misuse of a public charity, his base supporters stay with him. And despite the fact that the president has been documented to have made more than 12,000 false and misleading statements since taking office in January 2017, a strong majority of Republican Party voters and politicians remain loyal to Trump.

America’s 45th president defies democratic norms regularly by disparaging and blaming people of color and immigrants for both his own and the nation’s problems, and calls journalists “enemies of the people.”  Steven Hassan, a cult survivor, mental health professional and director of the Freedom of Mind Resource Center says that like cult leaders Jim Jones, L. Ron Hubbard, David Koresh and Sun Myung Moon, “Trump exhibits features of what psychologist Erich Fromm called “malignant narcissism”— bombastic grandiosity, a bottomless need for praise, a lack of empathy, pathological lying, apparent sadism and paranoia. In short, Steven Hassan, author of the just published book, “The Cult of Trump: A Leading Cult Expert Explains How the President Uses Mind Control,” says Trump fits the stereotypical psychological profile of a cult leader.

Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Hassan. Here, he explains why he believes Trump is a leader of dangerous cult, as opposed to an unorthodox politician with a passionate following.

STEVEN HASSAN: I would start with the stereotypical profile of cult leaders that I have researched and studied. He seems to have all the major pathological, malignant narcissistic qualities of major cult leaders. In fact, I have a chapter paralleling him with my former cult leader, the leader of Scientology, (Ron) Hubbard, Lyndon LaRouche, Jim Jones, and a number of other cult leaders. And so, what is that profile? Essentially, they’re people who are incapable of empathy. They are so grandiose and extreme thinking everything’s about them. Everything’s about their power and money and sex. They can’t take criticism. They project all of their behavior on everybody else. They’re often very sadistic, paranoid, teaching things in terms of black and white us versus them thinking. And essentially they want obedience – and to quote Donald Trump, he wants “loyalty above all else.”

And like most cult leaders, he likes revenge or to threaten revenge for anyone who crosses him. So there’s no toleration for dissension or people calling him out on his unethical behavior, which includes pathological lying, like no other cult leader I’ve actually encountered – so many lies in such a short period of time. And when it comes to him occupying the office of the presidency, you know, that office has a sacred mystical power unto itself as well as actual political power. And so, if he wasn’t in the office of the presidency, I don’t think he would be able to wreak so much havoc. And cause so much polarization and pain around the world advancing elitism and authoritarianism, but using populist appeals in lying to the average person to make them believe that he actually is like them and cares about them.

I go into issues of brainwashing. What the criteria are. I talk about my BITE model of mind control, how cult leaders control behavior, information, thoughts and emotions to make people dependent and obedient. So, there’s a long laundry list I cover in my book about how destructive cult leaders operate. But what I didn’t know, Scott, when I started researching the book was just how many actual cult groups form the base of Donald Trump. And, I believe that the media has been mischaracterizing the base as evangelical Christians when in fact his base are people involved with cultic Christianesque groups. Ones that are often secret, but they all share the same desire to impose a dominionism, what’s called dominionism. They want to influence the government. They want to tear down the separation of church and state.

BETWEEN THE LINES: I’m wondering from your perspective, having examined Donald Trump and his supporters, what can you tell us about the threat of violence here as we enter what many people believe is a constitutional crisis where Trump and his administration are not cooperating with the House of Representatives in their impeachment inquiry, resisting subpoenas? I’m wondering if you’re concerned that people, as they have in the past, invoke Trump’s name to justify their violence? We’ve had supporters send pipe bombs to Trump opponents in the media and politics. We’ve had mass shootings where Trump’s name is invoked for his condemnation of refugees and immigrants. What is the concern level we should all have here?

STEVEN HASSAN: I’m very concerned, frankly. Unfortunately, history shows that cult leaders are not just con artists, but they actually believe their own grandiosity and extremism and that they would rather take everybody with them rather than surrender power. So I’ve been concerned since Trump was elected and inaugurated, that he was not going to be voted out of office. And I did a lot of studying of conspiracy promulgators like Alex Jones and others that have been pushing this narrative that America is headed for a civil war and that therefore they need to stockpile automatic rifles because there’ll be mass riots everywhere and food will have shortages, et cetera.

And so some folks have been primed for decades to expect this. So am I worried? Yes, I’m very worried. I’m more worried honestly, about a nuclear first strike, which apparently has been discussed, and of course I have a book called The Cult of Trump. So there are unstable people who are true believers and who might try to initiate something. And all I can say is I’m not going to be silenced and that I need to tell the facts as I know it. This is my expertise.

For more information, visit Freedom of Mind Resource Center at
See more information about “The Cult of Trump” book on Facebook, at Freedom of Mind Resource Centerand at Simon and Schuster

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