On Wednesday, President Donald Trump met with a group of school shooting survivors and families of victims for a "listening session" at the White House, but it seems that he needed a little help to convey that he took them seriously. Associated Press photographer Carolyn Kaster snapped a picture of a hand-written list of talking points Trump held during the meeting, and now people are trying to figure out, what did Trump's listening cheat sheet say? The writing was partially obscured by his hands, but there's still enough visible text to figure it out.
It's understandable that Trump's staff would want to keep him focused on a few key issues during the emotionally charged meeting, and it's well-known that he has a tendency to stray off topic when he's not given a script to keep him on track. But some of the items on the numbered list are things that he shouldn't have to be reminded of, and others don't even seem like they should have been mentioned in the first place. Speaking to people directly affected by such tragedies would surely be an emotionally taxing job, but it shouldn't be intellectually challenging; just apologize, listen to what they want, and promise to do better, right?
The meeting should have been particularly easy for Trump, as The New York Times reported that most of the invited guests "appeared to support" Trump, and many offered "praise for his leadership" before addressing the subject at hand. Outspoken survivors of the Parkland shooting, who have already created a movement, organized a march, and thoroughly trounced adults like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in a televised debate, were not invited, according to Never Again cofounder Cameron Kasky.
"What would you most want me to know about your experience?" read the first point on Trump's list, a hollow prompt that needn't have been said. Next was "What can we do to help you feel safe?" But rather than being open to suggestions from people who have suffered because of the government's inaction, Trump steered the conversation to his own ideas, including pushing the narrative that mental illness is the biggest factor in mass shootings, when, according to the TIMES, "just 4 percent of violence is associated with serious mental illness alone," less than 5 percent of U.S. gun-related killings between 2001 and 2010 were committed by people with mental illness, and according to Psychology Today, people with mental illness are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators.
Trump's third talking point isn't shown in its entirety, but it appears to read, "Do you [think] see something [say] something [is] effective?" If that's the case, that's absolutely outrageous. Obviously nobody would ever advocate for witnesses not reporting their concerns about at-risk individuals, and we know it's not effective enough on its own, because these shootings keep happening. Before Sandy Hook, at least one person contacted Newtown Police to warn them that the perpetrator "had an assault weapon" and "planned to kill his mother and children at Sandy Hook," according to CBS News. Both the FBI and the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office were warned about the Parkland shooter on numerous occasions, CNN has reported.
Trump's fourth note was vague and useless: "resources? ideas?" He'd already been instructed to ask for ideas in point number two, and the idea that these victims of violence should be responsible for providing him with any resources is just offensive. They weren't asked there to prove anything, and if the president wants to learn about the epidemic that's killing 96 Americans every day, he can do his own damn research. But the final point on Trump's list is the most infuriating: "I hear you." Somebody who works closely with Trump, someone whom he trusts to tell him what to say, felt it necessary to instruct him to make a point of proving that he actually cared about those people and what they were telling him. And it doesn't seem like it did much good.