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  • Writer's pictureDr. Bandy Lee, M.D., M.Div.

Op Ed: Trumpism Did Not End with Donald Trump

Now, His Chief Enabler Wants a Role in the Biden Administration

We have all witnessed how ignoring the dangerous psychology and lack of mental fitness in an influential office as the U.S. presidency has had catastrophic consequences for the nation and the world. It has led to a mental health pandemic of “shared psychosis” at alarming levels, as well as an overall worsening of our collective mental health. As a result, we have been unable effectively to contain a viral pandemic or to prevent a violent insurrection.

Little known is that a psychiatrist aided and abetted Donald Trump’s presidency by vigorously silencing the warnings of mental health professionals and boosting the president’s ability to remain without accountability. Jeffrey Lieberman is that psychiatrist, and he has been seeking an important mental health position in the Biden administration, which portends danger for our country.

Just four years ago, Lieberman, formerly president of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), claimed that mental health professionals trying to meet their public health duty were themselves unethical and dangerous. He crusaded for Donald Trump when the rest of the profession had serious concerns and, together with the APA, was perhaps the decisive factor that helped him to stay in office. Now, with his eye on a position in the Biden Administration, he delivered an address that baldly appropriates the views he worked hard to discredit. His dramatic change of position begs the question of his allegiance to science, medicine, the standards of his profession, and his disingenuous concern for public health belies his long history of actions that placed his political aspirations paramount and should be investigated.

I and my organization, the World Mental Health Coalition (WMHC), believe that the vital favors he did for the former president endangered the public’s health. Others charge that Lieberman and the APA took funds and accepted privileges from the Trump administration, using them to intimidate and harm the many psychiatrists and other mental health experts who tried to meet their professional obligations to society. Lieberman and other APA affiliates subsequently received significant government money, all out of proportion to other institutions of science and education under the same administration. These concerns of corruption must be investigated before Lieberman is considered for any important position.

In 2017, some of the most renowned mental health experts in the nation, including a famous scholar of Nazi doctors, contributed to the collection of essays I edited: The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump. Authors voiced concern that American psychiatry could fall into the path of Nazi or Soviet psychiatry if it colluded with a dangerous government. Lieberman characterized our work as “not serious, scholarly, civic-minded work, but simply tawdry, indulgent, fatuous tabloid psychiatry.” He likened us to “Nazi and Soviet psychiatrists” with his misrepresentation that we diagnosed the president when we had not. He ignored his own article, in which he blatantly diagnosed Donald Trump in detail, violating “the Goldwater rule” he claimed to keep. Lieberman needs to be investigated for his hypocrisy and his repeated lies about us before he is considered for any important position.

A separate but important issue that also needs investigation is the matter of questionable medical experimentation that Lieberman has conducted which, in some other countries, could be deemed as rising to the level of torture. When a Pulitzer-nominated journalist investigated this issue, he attacked the journalist. The journalist’s concerns and the actual nature of his experiments need to be independently investigated, without pharmaceutical industry interference, before he is considered for any important position.

In his recent address, he stated:

“It’s increasingly important for psychiatrists to have a voice in the public arena about what is happening in our country. This is particularly true in recent years, as we’ve seen that we can’t rely on government institutions to always protect us.”

WMHC formed in opposition to Lieberman and the APA, which deemphasized our societal responsibility to the point of eliminating any role, supported government institutions that were actively harming us, and toed the pharmaceutical-industry line that nothing could be known outside a private patient examination, where pills could be prescribed. Lieberman needs to be investigated for coopting and potentially plagiarizing our statements before he is considered for any important position.

“Since last March, we’ve been battling the COVID virus, [but] we’ve also been fighting the pandemic’s collateral effects….”

Lieberman worsened the traumas by not only neglecting his own duty, but preventing others from educating the public. He wrote numerous articles for multiple important platforms, appeared on major television programs, and used his influence in every way to denounce principled professionals who were risking their careers to try to protect the public. He and the APA used “stigma” as an excuse to stifle discussions on mental health, against the voluminous literature that suggests lack of education and discussion around mental illness causes stigma, while silence promotes guilt, shame, and barriers to seeking treatment. There are signs that, within weeks of our concerns rising to the number one topic of national conversation, either Lieberman or the APA acted behind the scenes to black us out from the major media decisively and permanently. Once again, Lieberman’s brazen ability to contribute to the deaths on the one hand and to assume empathy on the other needs to be investigated before he is considered for any important position.

“We can predict the increases in population frequencies for such conditions as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, attempted suicide, and violence within certain confidence intervals.”

When WMHC deemed the Trump presidency to be a national psychiatric crisis that would have deadly consequences, we were accurate. Did Lieberman not to see this coming, or did he see it but took deliberate steps to stop conscientious professionals? Why did he and the APA distort ethical guidelines to discredit and fight off sound, science-based warnings, when the nation still had time to act? Lieberman spent his time, influence, and effort to stop mental health experts from fulfilling their professional societal duty. He should be investigated for his conflicts of interest, his exceptional affinity for a societally-destructive government and mentally-impaired president, and his continued seeking of high positions, despite his failures.

Only then can we mitigate and prevent his further societal harm.

We once warned that Donald Trump was dangerous for the nation; now, after almost 500,000 deaths and a deadly insurrection that almost upended our democracy, the WMHC is stating that Lieberman is dangerous for our country. Since dangerous individuals inflict the greatest harm when in high office or positions of power, his motivations and actions need to be investigated before he takes a position that has widespread public health implications.

About the contributor:

Dr. Bandy Lee, M.D., M.Div., is a forensic psychiatrist, violence expert, and faculty member of Yale School of Medicine for 17 years who also taught at Yale Law School for 15 years. She was a research fellow at the National Institute of Mental Health, a consultant with the World Health Organization since 2002, and author of the textbook, Violence (2019). She edited The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 37 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President (2017 and 2019) and authored Profile of a Nation: Trump’s Mind, America’s Soul (2020). She is also president of the World Mental Health Coalition, which is a professional organization dedicated to the betterment of societal mental health and formed in part to step in where the American Psychiatric Association failed in societal leadership. For donations to her organization, a tax-deductible 501(c)3, please go here.

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