Donald Trump loves to use a rhetorical device called apophasis (i.e. raising an issue by saying it will not be mentioned/affirmed). In this clip from the weekend, he repeatedly says he will not refer to Chris Christie as a “fat pig” … while in essence doing precisely that.
Apophasis is a type of non-denial denial. For that reason, bullies often think they can get away with insulting people by ostensibly denying that they are endorsing the insult they are nonetheless repeating, often with tangible relish.
A savvy workplace investigator is not deterred by such low brow deflections. To evaluate this non-denial denial as a defense, we can begin with the concept of harassment defined as behaviour which one knows or ought reasonably to know would cause offense.
Then we ask the question: would it reasonably cause offense to call another political candidate a “fat pig”? Yes, it would. Fair enough, but of course, this individual denies calling the other candidate a fat pig.
No problem. Next we ask, would it reasonably cause offense to repeat multiple times an audience member’s comment that another political candidate is a “fat pig” while mugging for the crowd even if, all the while, you are tacking on that you are not ‘endorsing’ the opinion you are still repeating with evident relish? Again, yes, it would.
With that simple two-step process, the thin rhetorical veil of aphophasis evaporates like dew in the desert sun, revealing the overt harassing and bullying behaviour behind it.