He uses it in several ways: as a punchline, a deflection, a dismissal, a dig and as a reassurance

By Sam Gillette
April 11, 2019 01:03 PM
Apple CEO Tim Cook (left) and President Donald Trump
| Credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty

President Donald Trump is notorious on the left for his vindictiveness and lies while conservatives have praised him for his unfiltered persona and confidence bordering on aggression.

Both versions of the former reality TV star are epitomized by one of his favorite phrases: “but that’s okay.” He uses it in several ways: as a punchline, a deflection, a dismissal, a dig and as a reassurance. (Sometimes he drops the “but.”)

Perhaps most infamously, Trump said it after a flap while speaking to the U.N. General Assembly in September.

The president claimed that his administration had accomplished more in two years than “almost any administration” in U.S. history, according to the Washington Post. Other world leaders broke into raucous laughter.

“Didn’t expect that reaction,” Trump told the crowd, “but that’s okay.”

Last month, during a speech in Ohio, Trump said the phrase while complaining about not getting thanked for approving the use of a military plane for late Sen. John McCain’s funeral.

“I endorsed him at his request, and I gave him the kind of funeral that he wanted, which as president I had to approve. I don’t care about this. I didn’t get a thank you. That’s okay,” he said. “We sent him on the way. But I wasn’t a fan of John McCain.”

And Trump once groused about not getting recognition for pushing to repeal part of the Affordable Care Act: “We got no credit, but that’s okay.”

Trump Border Security, Washington, USA - 15 Feb 2019
President Donald Trump
| Credit: Evan Vucci/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Trump doesn’t just use the phrase on political enemies. He’s used it while praising Oprah Winfrey for taking to the campaign trail in support of Georgia’s democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.

“People … worked very very hard respectfully for those candidates, like Oprah Winfrey, who I like. I don’t know if she likes me anymore, but that’s okay.” Trump said. “She used to. But she worked very hard in Georgia. Very, very hard.”

(He said something similar about Martha Stewart after he said she was no longer his “biggest fan,” per the New York Times.)

While appearing on Fox Business Network last month, Trump chastised host Maria Bartiromo when she asked him about his continued disparagement of Sen. McCain.

“You shouldn’t have brought it up,” Trump told her on the air. “Actually, I thought you weren’t supposed to bring it up. But that’s okay, fake news.”

“No, it’s not fake news,” Bartiromo responded. (She later confirmed for her viewers on air that “there were no conditions or stipulations agreed to ahead of” her Trump interview.)

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Multiple experts have given their opinion about Trump’s speaking style, including George Lakoff, a linguist at UC Berkeley, who spoke with Vox.

Trump, at his core, is a salesman, Lakoff argued.

“Is he reading cognitive science? No. He has 50 years of experience as a salesman who doesn’t care who he is selling to,” he said.

Lakoff continued: “He has been doing this for a very long time as a salesman — that’s what he is best at.”