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Mary Trump Says Trump Family Saw Illness As 'Unforgivable Weakness'

President Trump walks to the South Lawn of the White House before boarding Marine One in Washington, D.C., on Friday. Mary Trump says Donald and Fred Trump viewed getting sick as a sign of weakness.
President Trump walks to the South Lawn of the White House before boarding Marine One in Washington, D.C., on Friday. Mary Trump says Donald and Fred Trump viewed getting sick as a sign of weakness.

Attitude about illness is looming large over the president's coronavirus treatment. White House physician Sean Conley said on Sunday that he didn't initially disclose that the president was given oxygen on Friday, despite multiple questions about it from reporters, because he was trying to " reflect the upbeat attitude" of the president.

Trump's estranged niece, Mary Trump, says members of the Trump family have viewed illness as "a display of unforgivable weakness."

Mary Trump — who is suing the family for money and recently wrote Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man— told NPR's Michel Martin that illness was seen as "unacceptable" by Donald Trump and his father, Fred Trump. "Which sounds incredibly cruel, but happens to be true."

"That's why [the U.S. is] in the horrible place we're in, because he cannot admit to the weakness of being ill or of other people being ill," Mary Trump says. There have been more than 7 million cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. and more than 200,000 people have died.

Mary Trump's father, Fred Trump Jr., was an alcoholic. "In my family [it] was treated like a moral failing," she says.

In an interview with NPR's All Things Considered,Mary Trump reflected on her family's history of illness and their attitude about being sick.


Interview Highlights

On how the reaction to illness was expressed in her family

First of all, what's fascinating is I had no idea that my great-grandfather had died during the 1918 flu pandemic from the flu until I read about it somewhere a couple of years ago. And Donald also seems to have forgotten about that, which is incredible, considering it's a pretty fascinating historical detail in the family.

But, you know, it depended on who it was. And it was also driven by the fact that my grandfather was never sick. Ever. Until in the late '80s, he had a tumor removed, but then he was completely fine. And then many years later when he was suffering from Alzheimer's, he had a hip replacement but wasn't really aware of much of what was going on.

So between that and my grandfather's adherence to Norman Vincent Peale's power of positive thinking, which he took to such an extreme level that it was toxic because it left no room for expressions of what he considered negativity of any kind, you know, sadness, despair, being physically ill.

So my grandmother, with her osteoporosis, would come home from the hospital and need more care and physical therapy. And my grandfather was unable to tolerate it. You know, he'd be in the room with her. And as soon as she started showing that she was in physical pain, he would say "everything's great, right. Everything's great." And he'd leave the room.

With my dad, it was worse, as you can imagine, because the alcoholism was considered his fault.

On whether she has heard anything through her family about Trump's care

I have not and unfortunately, it seems like we can't exactly rely upon the information we're getting directly from the medical team at Walter Reed, which is unfortunate because we really do need as much accurate information as possible in a case like this.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: October 5, 2020 at 12:00 AM EDT
A previous version of the Web story misidentified the White House physician. Sean Conley is his name, not Connelly.