Trump's Chrissy Teigen Twitter feud is as lopsided as it is revealing

Donald Trump brought a knife to a social media gunfight and came off looking weak — and at the hands of a woman of color to boot.
Image: Chrissy Teigen
Chrissy Teigen attends the 2019 Vanity Fair Oscar Party at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on Feb. 24, 2019 in Beverly Hills, Calif.David Crotty / Patrick McMullan via Getty Image file
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By Ani Bundel

The internet woke up on Monday morning to a surprising Twitter feud. Chrissy Teigen, the supermodel, entrepreneur and wife of singer John Legend, was trending, along with the hashtag “FilthyMouthedWife.” This was not all that unusual given Teigen’s current status as one of the true celebrity stars of Twitter.

Since Tiegen's rise to fame as a model in 2010, and the social media attention that followed, her seemingly uncalculated persona has made her a viral Twitter presence on everything from celebrity to food. But in this case, Teigen was trending because of another frequent Twitter user, President Donald Trump. In what are now routine middle-of-the-night rants, Trump had complained that his criminal justice reform initiatives were not being properly praised by celebrity advocates, including “John Legend and his filthy mouthed wife.”

Said tweet, if one clicks through, clearly tags Legend, but despite Teigen’s handle being very well known, does not do the same for her. Not that it mattered. As Teigen noted, he tagged “everyone but me,” as if by not tagging her she might not notice. She then thanked him for the honor, but not before calling him something that is considered unprintable by most respectable publications.

Trump should have known better than to tangle with this particular “wife.” But he couldn’t help himself, given how desperately he wants to be adored in the same way that major celebrities often are. It's a weakness of his that's accepted as fact. And his ugly words about Teigen only deepen the sense that he feels threatened by her own specific kind of power. Though he did not use one of his favorite insults for women (“nasty”), “filthy mouthed wife” is close enough.

Trump should have known better than to tangle with this particular “wife.” But he couldn’t help himself.

While these types of bullying tactics may work with someone constrained by the politesse of mainstream politics, however, Teigen has no use for those rules. Trump may play in the Twitter pool, but this is Teigen's world. And every anti-Trump comment Teigen retweets to her millions of followers serves to reinforce just how far out his depth the president has swum.

Teigen’s brand has evolved significantly over the years as she began to expand her sphere of punditry from her original “life as a celebrity, unfiltered” to include taboo issues such as fertility (both their children were conceived via IVF), charity causes she and her husband are patrons of, and of course, politics. Both she and Legend have been outspoken critics of Trump, both on Twitter and elsewhere, but as is true of everything in the patriarchy, it is Teigen who bears the brunt of the criticism as a result.

Teigen’s bluntness is a part of her brand and has been for a while. (Case in point: her all-too-honest feelings about shaving on Twitter made while she was still the “brand ambassador” for Venus.) She has used this persona masterfully, skewering politicians in the same way she skewers the profession that helped her rise to fame. (My personal favorite quote: “I am paid a good amount of money to not blink for 12 hours.”) This has helped distinguished Teigen from the pack of early 20-teens supermodels like Karlie Kloss, and the reality star models like Kendall Jenner and the Hadid sisters. Teigen doesn’t need to be best friends with Taylor Swift or star in a Kardashian-branded TV series to be known. She simply has to be loudly herself.

It has also given her a reputation for what is known in social media circles as “the clapback.” According to Merriam-Webster, the term is derived from a 2003 song by Ja Rule. But at this point, the term might as well just be used in reference to Teigen, as entertainment sites have taken to using it to refer to any tweet where she is even the slightest bit sarcastic. In perhaps the most meta moment so far, she tweeted out that she would prefer everyone stop writing about her epic clapback tweets, only to spawn dozens of articles detailing how she had clapped back at her documenters.

Teigen is clearly a master of the medium. This, coupled with her habit of randomly tweeting at Trump that she hates him suggests she may have gotten under the president’s notoriously thin skin.

Teigen is clearly a master of the medium. This, coupled with her habit of randomly tweeting at Trump that she hates him suggests she may have gotten under the president’s notoriously thin skin. Unfortunately, his attack on her won’t do him any favors.

As noted by Teigen on Monday morning, she wasn’t even part of the MSNBC special on criminal justice reform that prompted the tirade — her husband was. Moreover, the special did not mention the First Step Act being enacted in 2018 (an improbable success story) because the piece was about ending mass incarceration, something Trump’s legislation did not begin to consider. Trump’s tweet failed to highlight any of this, of course, but did manage to start a feud he is ill-equipped to finish.

Teigen’s influence is such that even though her response to Trump was too uncouth for Twitter’s trending topics, her name was one of the top trends of the morning, and her hilariously impolite hashtag was, according to “The Independent,” found by the third-party social media tracking firm Keyhole to be beating out those in the official top 10. All this before the usual suspect websites could even start writing up how Teigen had clapped backed once more. Not exactly what Trump was going for.

In fact, all this does is reinforce a fundamental truism about his insecurities. The president brought a knife to a social media gunfight and came off looking weak — and at the hands of a woman of color to boot. No cry of “filthy mouthed woman” is going to make that go away either.

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