CNN Reliable Sources host Brian Stelter on Sunday provided a platform to Steven Hassan — an author and self-proclaimed expert on “cults” — allowing him to go unchallenged when he claimed President Donald Trump is the leader of a “destructive cult,” who is deploying mind control to cement support among his “obedient followers.”
Hassan — a former member of the Unification Church in the 1970s — appeared on Stelter’s program to promote his newly-released book, The Cult of Trump.
A partial transcript is as follows:
BRIAN STELTER: The word “cult” has been popping up more and more. Think back to two weeks ago on this program, Anthony Scaramucci talked about his claim that Trump supporters are in a cult. Just last week, Dan Rather said he thinks for Trump seems increasingly cultish. And this weekend in The Washington Post, Trump critic and Republican strategist John Weaver said the GOP is “not a party anymore in the traditional sense; It’s a cult.” But, none of them are mental health experts. Steven Hassan is. He’s out with a brand-new book called The Cult of Trump. He has firsthand experience escaping the Unification Church back in the ’70s and he decided to write this book because he believes there’s something seriously wrong with our politics.
STEVEN HASSAN: I define a destructive cult as an authoritarian pyramid-structured group with someone at the top who claims to have total power and total wisdom that uses the deception and control of behavior, information, thoughts, and emotions to make people loyal and dependent and obedient followers.
For me, the issue between an ethical healthy cult, where you’re free to think and free to leave, versus a destructive cult. I’m referring to Trump’s organization and followership as a destructive cult, where people are being fed propaganda and they’re not being encouraged to think for themselves. They’re not being encouraged to really explore and look at the details and arrive at their own conclusion. Much of what they’re hearing is emotionally driven, loaded words, thought-stopping and thought-terminating-type clichés like “fake news” or “build the wall” or “make America great again.”
BRIAN STELTER: You say the President is using mind control, but how is that provable?
STEVEN HASSAN: We can start with the pathological lying, which is characteristic of destructive cult leaders. Saying things in a very confident way that [has] nothing to do with facts or truthfulness. The blaming [of] others and never taking responsibility for his own failures and faults. Shunning and kicking out anyone who raises questions or concerns about his own behavior. His use of fearmongering, immigration is a horrible thing.