Trump defends his cognitive test results on Fox News again

A fallen tree being used as a campaign sign for US President Donald Trump, in New York. He has been defending his mental fitness for office.
A fallen tree being used as a campaign sign for US President Donald Trump, in New York. He has been defending his mental fitness for office. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON • "Person. Woman. Man. Camera. TV." United States President Donald Trump again sought to showcase his mental fitness on television by reciting, over and over in an interview broadcast on Wednesday, what he said was a sample cognitive testing sequence.

For the better part of a month, Mr Trump, 74, has made repeated appearances on Fox News to brag about acing a cognitive test he said he recently took at Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre, first with talk-show host Sean Hannity and again with news anchor Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday.

The White House has not disclosed details about when the President underwent the testing or why.

In the most recent interview - a six-minute segment with Dr Marc Siegel, a professor of medicine at New York University and a medical analyst for Fox News - Mr Trump tried to defend his own mental fitness for office by outlining the particulars of the test he said he had taken and by questioning the acuity of former vice-president Joe Biden, 77, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

"It's really something that's been great," Mr Trump said, referring to being the president. "But you need stamina. You need physical health, and you need mental health."

Then Mr Trump seemed to offer differing timelines for when he had taken the test.

First, he said he had asked a physician "a little less than a year ago" if there was a test he could take to prove his mental acuity to the media. It is unclear when that visit occurred: Last month, the White House released a summary of Mr Trump's health but not an annual physical report, and did not explain an unusual, unannounced visit last autumn to Walter Reed.

Then, Mr Trump said that he had asked Dr Ronny Jackson, who has not been his physician since 2018, if there was an acuity test he could take.

That year - after the book Fire And Fury described some of Mr Trump's advisers questioning his fitness for office - Dr Jackson said that the President had received a score of 30 out of 30 on the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (Moca).

The Moca test has been criticised by experts as too blunt an instrument that does not rule out declines in reasoning or memory, or difficulties with planning or judgment.

"It was 30 to 35 questions," Mr Trump recalled on Wednesday.

"The first questions are very easy. The last questions are much more difficult. Like a memory question. It's, like, you'll go: Person. Woman. Man. Camera. TV. So they say, 'Could you repeat that?' So I said, 'Yeah. It's: Person. Woman. Man. Camera. TV,'" Mr Trump said.

"Then, 10 minutes, 15, 20 minutes later they say, 'Remember that first question - not the first - but the 10th question? Give us that again. Can you do that again?' And you go: 'Person. Woman. Man. Camera. TV.' If you get it in order, you get extra points."

He added: "It's actually not that easy, but for me, it was easy... They say, 'That's amazing. How did you do that?'

"I do it because I have, like, a good memory, because I'm cognitively there. Now, Joe should take that test, because something's going on."

Prof Siegel did not ask follow-up questions.

In an interview broadcast on Sunday, when told that Mr Biden was chosen in a Fox poll as the more mentally sound candidate, Mr Trump disputed that finding and defended his cognitive test results to Mr Wallace, who said he had taken the same test that the President had boasted about acing.

Mr Wallace said one question had asked to identify an elephant.

"It's all misrepresentation," Mr Trump said. "Because, yes, the first few questions are easy, but I'll bet you couldn't even answer the last five questions. I'll bet you couldn't. They get very hard, the last five questions."


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 24, 2020, with the headline Trump defends his cognitive test results on Fox News again. Subscribe