Did President Donald Trump flip off a female astronaut who gently fact-checked him about a space walk? Yes, that's true: A body language expert -- who is a Republican Trump supporter -- concluded that when the president used his middle finger to rub his forehead, he was sending a message of annoyance to the astronaut. Lead Stories researched the claim that Trump was flipping off astronaut Jessica Meir because we expected it to be false, expecting it to be found untrue, but Susan Constantine, founder of "The Human Behavior Lab", convinced us it was true.
The claim has spread across social media since the October 18, 2019 event in which Trump was speaking to Meir and fellow astronaut Christina Koch after their historic all female space walk from the International Space Station. An example is a post (archived here) posted as a meme on Ocotber 21, 2019 which read:
When gently corrected by one of the astronauts about how other women have spacewalked, Donald Trump uses his middle finger to 'fix' his hair.
How is this even real life?
This version included a video clip:
The video clip is from Trump's conversation with Meir and astronaut Christina Koch after they completed their historic space walk from the International Space Station, the first time two women walked together in space. After Trump said it was "the first time for a woman outside the Space Station," Meir corrected him by saying many women have walked in space before, but only one at a time. Trump's hand moved to his forward at the point, creating the perception of a "bird" being flipped.
For every false story Lead Stories debunks, there are at least six or seven we research and find true. We do not usually publish stories about those, but we decided to do so in this case because we wanted to share what we learned from Susan Constantine, who analyzes speech patterns, facial expressions and body language in court cases.
Constantine said Trump's hand movements were sending a message that she categorizes as an "emblem." Trump's touching of his forehead with his index finger is "equivalent to a word in the English language," Constantine said. "Yeah, he's giving her the finger."
"The body will betray you," she said. Whether the president was aware of it or not, he was sending a message of "agitation and annoyance" and it is clear that "he is pissed."
Most face touching with the index finger carries the same message, with the exception of someone who has a regular habit of doing it. That would considered a baseline movement, but Constantine said she has not observed Trump doing that.
Constantine acknowledged that she has a bias in this case -- toward Trump. She described herself as "pro-Trump," but she said the message is very clear in this case.
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