The recent news about Trump lawyers using “Patient Zero” as a term for election denials in reference to Russian interference has caused a great deal of controversy. In a recent filing submitted to the Supreme Court, Trump’s team of lawyers claimed that the supposed “Patient Zero” of the alleged Russian interference were the statements made during the campaign of the president-elect.
The notion of “Patient Zero” is generally used in medical contexts, usually to refer to the very first person to contract a particular virus or disease. In this case, Trump lawyers use the term to describe the “first cause” of election denials, suggesting that it was the president-elect’s statements that began the spread of the supposed Russian interference.
While many have taken issue with the use of such a term in this context, the Trump legal team maintains their argument that the statements made during the campaign “masked” the extent of the Russian interference. Moreover, the legal team has also argued that not only did such statements conceal the interference, but that they opened the door for foreign interference in future US elections.
Whether or not this strategy will be successful remains to be seen. However, what is certain is that the provocative use of the term “Patient Zero” has caused a great deal of consternation among those who see the issue as one of national security and integrity of the electoral system.
Nevertheless, this incident provides yet another example of the highly-charged and factionalized political environment that currently exists in the United States. It is yet another reminder of the importance of examining the language used my individuals and groups and avoiding terms and phrases that are inflammatory and potentially harmful to the democratic process.