Stanford professor’s joke mentioning Barron Trump sparks controversy

Professor Pamela Karlan
Stanford Law Professor Pamela Karlan testified before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. AP photo.

A Stanford law professor who was called to testify at Wednesday ’s (Dec. 4) House Judiciary Committee’s hearing on the impeachment of President Trump created a controversy when she made a joke that mentioned 13-year-old Barron Trump.

Pamela Karlan had been asked to describe the differences between a U.S. president and a king when she brought up the first son’s name.

“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,” Karlan told lawmakers.

Two hours later, Melania Trump tweeted a rebuke from Air Force One as she returned with her husband from the NATO summit in London.

“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,’” tweeted the first lady.

Then Mrs. Trump’s words were read aloud during the hearing as it stretched into its eighth hour.

Several minutes later, Karlan apologized.

“I want to apologize for what I said earlier about the president’s son,” she said, noting she was happy to admit when she was wrong. “I wish the president would apologize, obviously, for the things he’s done that are wrong, but I do regret having said that,” said Karlan, who teaches constitutional law.

Violated an unwritten rule

The Associated Press noted that Karlan, a former Obama administration Justice Department official, had violated an “unwritten but firm Washington rule against dragging the first family’s children into politics.”

Then Barron’s older brother, Donald Trump Jr., tweeted, “Remember only children of liberals (even the 50 year old children) are off limits. That a 13-year-old is fair game for partisan hacks on a national platform shows you all (what) you need to know about the new left and who is now running the ship.”

Don Jr. was likely referring to Hunter Biden, the 49-year-old son of former Vice President Joe Biden, whose $1 million-a-year job in Ukraine started the impeachment snowball rolling.

Prior to Mrs. Trump’s reaction, the White House’s Twitter account said, “Democrats are calling as witnesses the kind of people who would name the minor child of the president as a punchline in a committee hearing.”

A ‘nothingburger’

The back-and-forth over Barron Trump drew the attention of Kellyanne Conway’s husband, anti-Trump lawyer George Conway, who said Trump’s supporters were using the teenager as a political human shield to excuse what he said were the president’s crimes.

“You’re amplifying what was a nothingburger reference a 100,000-fold. Got it,” Conway said in response to the first lady.

He then accused the Trump administration of making Barron a public figure and said the “fake outrage” is a greater violation of the boy’s privacy than anything Karlan said.

Karlan, 60, is a Yale Law School graduate who went on to clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun.

In 1998, she joined the faculty of Stanford Law School. In 2003, she was appointed to the California Fair Political Practices Commission. In 2013, she was appointed by the Obama administration to serve as deputy assistant attorney general for voting rights.

— From staff and wire reports


  1. She is the perfect example of a smug, ‘intellectual’ who thinks she is better than anyone who disagrees with her opinions. She’d last about three days in the wilderness…

  2. Hmmm, Hawkeye, how do you respond to my editing of your comment below?

    He is the perfect example of a smug charlatan who thinks he is better than anyone who disagrees with him and his opinions. He’d last about three days in the wilderness on his own, without his father’s money and the support of conniving henchmen who he’d discard when their hatchet job is finished.

  3. Sad that she had to resort to making snarky comments about the President’s son, but that’s how Democrats roll these days. Nothing is beneath them. Pathetic. Stanford should be embarrassed.

  4. I think Stanford should be proud of Prof. Karlan’s testimony, which clearly outlined to the American public why Trump should be impeached. He’s been credibly accused of five felonies. It’s time for the House to bring him to justice.

  5. Interestingly, she acknowledged her error and apologized, something seen only among the rational and reasonable members in the discussion.

    Slander, insults, degradation, defamation, and lies, all are common and deliberate on just one side of the conversation. Those who rise up in anger at this witness reveal their own deceitfulness rather sharply, do they not?

  6. I do Agree with all professor Karlan said during the hearing. But I personally think jokes, no matter how good they are during a very serious deposition simply subtracts credibility from the argument made. What the heck was this comment about William Davis not having a musical like hammilton and “only getting this hearing”. I think professor thought she was at her class where students are supposed to laugh no matter how tasteless a joke is. That shows in my view, weakness of character, and subtracts credibility from a otherwise flawless deposition, and lends itself for attacks as clearly The Baron case shows. Moral of the story, don’t make jokes regardless how good or intelligent there are, in a serious setting, cannot imagine anything more serious that situation. Stay on message and don’t give any reason to be considered less seriously or attacked.

  7. A minor child, yes. Bad taste. But what adult do you know who gives idiotic/tasteless nicknames to his opponents or anyone else he feels threatened by? He’s in a state of arrested development of an 11 year-old. If he can’t find a suitable adjective for an otherwise formidable person, he resorts to physical attributes, i.e. Little Mike. REALLY??

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