Gina Loudon, the Republican commentator and author, recently declared that she has scientific evidence that Donald Trump might be the “most sound-minded” president in history. It’s a claim that might carry more weight if her new book didn’t falsely describe her as having a doctorate in psychology.
Loudon, who worked as a surrogate for the Trump campaign and frequently appears on the airwaves to defend the president, obtained a Ph.D in a field called “human and organization systems” from an online school called Fielding Graduate University.
Loudon, 58, who often refers to herself as “Dr. Gina,” does not have a psychology degree or license.
But the author’s bio on the jacket of her new book, Mad Politics: Keeping Your Sanity in a World Gone Crazy—which contains theories that experts say have been dismissed by scientific research—states she has two masters’ degrees “as well as a Ph.D in psychology.”
The text on the front flap refers to her as “America’s favorite psychological expert,” and one of the blurbs inside gushes that she “has the depth of a credentialed psychoanalyst.”
Inside the book, Loudon—a member of Trump’s 2020 campaign Media Advisory Board—admits she does not have clinical training. “My gut instincts, which have nothing to do with my professional training, are pretty solid,” she writes.
The publishing company, Regnery, told The Daily Beast it takes responsibility for the erroneous descriptions.
“The jacket copy was written by Regnery, not Gina,” Alyssa Cordova, senior director of publicity at Regnery Publishing, said in an email. “As Human and Organizational Systems is a field of psychology, we simplified that simply as ‘psychology.’ We will be updating with the specific degree description on future printings and online marketing copy to avoid further confusion.”
Asked whether Loudon saw and signed off on the jacket copy before publication, as is customary in publishing, Cordova did not respond. Loudon also did not respond to repeated requests for comment about her educational background, the content of her book, and her claims about Trump’s mental state.
But last week, appearing on The Sean Hannity Show on Fox News Channel, Loudon had plenty to say about it.
She told host Sean Hannity, a close friend who wrote the foreword to the book, that the anonymous “senior official” who wrote a Trump-bashing op-ed for The New York Times was an example of what she calls “Trump derangement syndrome.”
Then she took a deep breath.
“But my book actually uses science and real data and true psychological theory to explain why it is quite possible that this president is the most sound-minded person to ever occupy the White House,” she said.
Hannity interjected: “Literally, liberals’ heads are going to explode at what you said!”
Jim Sliwa, spokesman for the American Psychological Association, told The Daily Beast that “psychological assessments should only be done by a psychologist who has a license to practice in the state in which they are doing the assessment.”
Florida, where Loudon lives, is not exempt to that rule. Jacqueline Hobbs, president of the Florida Psychiatric Society, said that Loudon lacks the academic degree to judge the mental health of a person.
“The degree looks non-clinical which would preclude assessment of mental health,” Hobbs said, adding, “No mental health professional should discuss an individual’s mental health without their permission and a face to face evaluation.”
Sliwa said one of the association psychologists looked at the Fielding program where Loudon got her degree.
“While it may be related to psychology, it doesn’t appear to qualify as a field of psychological study for the purposes of licensure,” he said. “It also does not appear to offer any coursework in assessment or abnormal psychology which would be necessary to conduct a valid assessment.”
The Daily Beast reviewed Mad Politics looking for the “science and real data and true psychological theory” Loudon cited in her assessment of Trump. She focuses on it in Chapter 10, titled, “Crazy Like a Fox: The Making of the Most Extraordinary President in History.”
Claim: Narcissism isn’t a bad word
Many have called Trump a narcissist, but Loudon says that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“The term ‘narcissism’ is overused and under-defined,” she writes, adding that a test she took in graduate school put her on the narcissist spectrum.
She argues that the absence of “tragic childhood experience,” childhood abuse, or animal abuse and torture in Trump’s background means he is not antisocial. “I’ve watched him for hours. He laughs, jokes, and enjoys that time. He invites those he knows in the room to come over to his table, calling them across the room to come say hello. He engages transparently and authentically. He lavishes praise on others. That is not the behavior of someone deeply troubled,” she writes.
But Dan P. McAdams, a psychology professor at Northwestern University whose research focuses on adult personality, said Loudon’s analysis “seems slanted and naive to me.”
Loudon “skates close” when she invokes the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a manual for mental health clinicians, and declares that Trump doesn’t have narcissistic personality disorder. Such a statement would require a clinical diagnosis—something neither McAdams (a psychologist with no clinical training) nor Loudon are qualified to do by professional standards.
“Clinical diagnosis connotes mental ‘illness,’” McAdams said. “It traffics in ideas like psychosis and mental disorders. These concepts are medical concepts”—ones that require an in-person evaluation by a clinician, he said.
Claim: Birth order made Trump great
Citing “anecdotal research,” Loudon writes that one key to Trump’s mental fitness is the fact that he is the fourth of five children. “Birth order seems to be the foundation for all other factors that create and define the psychology of the person” she writes, citing the book Life’s Fingerprint by Robert V. V. Hurst—a trained dentist who studied his dental patients.
A meta-analysis in 2015 published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences looked at sibling studies, involving 20,000 people. Extensive surveying of personality type, intelligence tests, and economic outcomes showed showed that while older kids tended to slightly outscore their younger siblings on intelligence tests, there was no indication that birth order had anything to do with life outcomes and mental health.
Brothers and sisters form important bonds and shape children’s futures, but a person’s “sound-mindedness” does not come from birth order, experts say.
Claim: Personality test shows Trump a ‘commander’
Loudon says personality type is “the most compelling predictor of future behavior” and she uses the categories in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a questionnaire that assigns letters to certain traits, to analyze Trump.
She concludes that Trump’s Myers-Briggs type is ENTJ and points to a description on Personalities.com that dubs this combination “the commander.”
“The ENTJ has mad presidential skills!” she enthuses.
Merve Emre, the author of The Personality Brokers: The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing, said someone who uses the Myers’ Briggs for assessment is supposed be trained and certified by the Myers-Briggs’ Training Institute. It’s not clear if Loudon has any such training.
While Myers-Briggs is widely used by schools, employers and others, researchers have repeatedly debunked its usefulness. It’s built off Carl Jung’s theories of personality, which he himself had doubts about, and most psychologists agree it has no power to predict how compatible people are with each other or with jobs.
“I think Loudon’s exercise is a highly dubious one,” Emre told The Daily Beast. “Even if you believe that MBTI’s language of type offers a valid or productive way to discuss personality, typing someone from afar introduces all kinds of biases.
“In Loudon’s case, it is clear that she is cherry-picking her examples of Trump's behavior to justify the conclusions she’s already drawn about him. (Her conclusions, her arguments, and her evidence are, frankly, idiotic. Is Trump really ‘wildly successful’? Where is the evidence that Trump ‘knows to use calculations based on solid data’ to make public policy decisions? Would the logic of gun confiscation really require us to confiscate cars?) This all seems like right wing ideology draped in the language of pseudo-science. I wouldn’t take it seriously.”
Loudon’s conclusions come with a caveat. At the beginning of the Trump chapter, she writes: “It is impossible and unethical to diagnose someone without a full, clinical diagnostic, workup, which includes various inventories, interviews, and analysis.”
That’s a nod to the so-called Goldwater Rule, adopted by the American Psychiatric Association, after then-presidential candidate Barry Goldwater sued the editor of Fact magazine in 1964 for libel after an article based on a poll of 1,189 psychiatrists about Goldwater’s mental fitness.
“That’s a principle I take seriously, although many inside and outside the mental health professions publicly babble on about the president’s mental fitness,” Loudon writes.
“Though I have spoken with the president socially, I have never had any sort of clinical access to him, nor have I had any access to any inventories he may have taken, nor have I ever interviewed him in a clinical capacity. In fact, I don’t even do clinical work. I am a researcher and I have done counseling, but I only do so far [sic] charities today. “
In recent years, Loudon has repeatedly referred to herself as working in the field of psychology. “In my profession going back years as somebody who does psychological analysis I’ve seen derangement and people lose touch many times,” she told Hannity on May 26. On April 14, she told Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs: “We call it psychological projection in my field, Lou.”
Loudon earned her bachelor’s degree at William Woods University. She attended Saint Louis University from 1992 to 1997 and received a Master of Arts in Education in January 1998, a spokeswoman for Saint Louis University said.
On her website, Loudon claims her master’s was taken away due to unspecified “political reasons,” then reinstated. Saint Louis University said it could not comment further without her permission.
A spokesperson for Fielding Graduate University said Loudon graduated in 1999 with a Ph.D and another master’s degree. Her LinkedIn also mentions certifications in body language interpretation and hypnotherapy—two areas that have been criticized as pseudoscience by scientists.
Since this article was published, Gina Loudon provided the following comment: “While I am not a medical doctor, I do hold a Ph.D from an accredited university and do hold two Masters and do have an undergraduate degree in Psychology. My transcripts document extensive course work in psychology and my Ph.D dissertation was titled ‘Love in the Heartland: The Experience of Extraordinary Love,’ which contrasted Sternberg’s psychological theory of love with the Maslowian hierarchical needs, and then applied it hermeneutically to existing data on relationships. It is customary for Ph.D.’s to be referred to as Doctor.”