At the House Judiciary Committee’s first impeachment-related hearing earlier today, constitutional law expert Pamela Karlan sent Republicans into a frenzy when she publicly mentioned that the president has a son by the name of Barron.
The noting of the existence of the President’s youngest child came in response to a question from Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who asked Karlan about comparisons “between kings that the framers were afraid of and the president’s conduct today.” Karlan offered the following in response:
Pamela Karlan: "Contrary to what President Trump says, Article Two does not give him the power to do anything he wants."— ABC News (@ABC) December 4, 2019
"The Constitution says there can be no titles of nobility, so while the president can name his son Barron, he cannot make him a baron" https://t.co/XwRAxpWfdN pic.twitter.com/1UeONZlz9G
Kings could do no wrong, because the king’s word was law. And contrary to what President Trump has said, Article II does not give him the power to do anything he wants. And I’ll just give you one example that shows you the difference between him and a king, which is: The constitution says there can be no titles of nobility, so while the president can name his son Barron, he can’t make him a baron.
It is, admittedly, an awful pun that is nonetheless perfectly clear in its meaning. Most people would have forgotten the bit of wordplay entirely if it weren’t for what happened next.
First came the White House press secretary.
Classless move by a Democratic “witness”. Prof Karlan uses a teenage boy who has nothing to do with this joke of a hearing (and deserves privacy) as a punchline. And what’s worse, it’s met by laughter in the hearing room. What is being done to this country is no laughing matter.— Stephanie Grisham (@PressSec) December 4, 2019
While Grisham’s complaint was a little haphazard (was she mad that people were laughing at a sentence that contained the word “Barron” or that people were laughing at something related to impeachment?), Melania Trump’s Twitter account jumped in to help streamline the matter.
A minor child deserves privacy and should be kept out of politics. Pamela Karlan, you should be ashamed of your very angry and obviously biased public pandering, and using a child to do it.— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) December 4, 2019
The first lady firmly believes that a minor child should be kept out politics, which is why she had no choice but to use her minor child to lash out at her husband’s political foes, for the second time in his presidency. Also livid that someone correctly identified the name of the president’s youngest son was Mike Pence:
Vice President Pence says the “impeachment hearings reached a new low” when a witness called by Democrats used “the president and first lady's 13 year old son to justify their partisan impeachment.” “Democrats should be ashamed. Enough is enough,” he says.— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) December 4, 2019
How, exactly, this has anything to do with referencing Barron’s name in the process of pointing out that the president cannot grant titles of nobility is unclear.
Charlie KIrk, a good friend of the president’s eldest son (name withheld to protect his privacy) and the founder of college conservative group Turning Point USA, was also very mad.
The left has complained for 2 months it is unethical to attack 49 year old Hunter Biden yet they now shamelessly attack 13 year old Barron Trump— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) December 4, 2019
This is the left, they don’t care about people, children, or America, only destroying Trump.
(In other teenagers-mentioned-in-Congress news, in September, Kirk tweeted that 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg was “a supporter of domestic terrorism.”)
In this case, Kirk doesn’t actually say what the attack is, so we have no choice but to assume Kirk believes that simply acknowledging Barron’s name is an egregious attack in itself, which feels a bit unfair. We here at Slate believe that Barron is a perfectly fine name, and look forward to Kirk apologizing for implying otherwise.
Fox News host and woman terrified of glass bottles Laura Ingraham was equally outraged, though not concerned enough to spell Barron Trump’s name correctly.
Karlan’s cheap shot invoking Baron Trump’s name just lost them any shred of hope that they’re going to win this impeachment battle in the court of public opinion.— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) December 4, 2019
(In March of last year, Ingraham issued an apology, under pressure from advertisers on her television show, after she taunted the high school senior and Parkland massacre survivor David Hogg about his college rejections.)
Republicans were so insistent on thrusting the president’s young minor 13-year-old school-aged child son into the middle of a political firestorm that Rep. Mike Johnson went so far as to enter Melania’s tweet into the congressional record, a feat that he proudly publicized further.
I just obtained unanimous consent to enter this into the record. #shameful #ImpeachmentHearing pic.twitter.com/1MfXE7cIMG— Rep. Mike Johnson (@RepMikeJohnson) December 4, 2019
Unsatisfied with Republicans’ already extensive efforts to force the president’s son into a nasty political feud, the Trump campaign also offered their assistance.
The Karlan joke about Barron Trump was an unforced error, and Republicans are going to be talking about it quite a bit. pic.twitter.com/ir6RqIgfbN— Garrett Haake (@GarrettHaake) December 4, 2019
Amid all the outrage, Karlan was ultimately forced to offer an apology for, as far as we can tell, reminding the president that he at some point fathered a fifth child. “I want to apologize for what I said earlier about the president’s son,” she said towards the end of the hearing. “It was wrong of me to do that. I wish the president would apologize, obviously, for the things that he’s done that’s wrong, but I do regret having said that.”
If recent history is any lesson, Republicans will be reminding us of this egregious acknowledgement of Barron’s given name until the day we die.