Date of Award

Summer 8-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

Dr. Christopher P. Campbell

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Dr. Cheryl Jenkins

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Dr. David Davies

Committee Member 3 School


Committee Member 4

Dr. Fei Xue

Committee Member 4 School


Committee Member 5

Dr. Jae-Hwa Shin

Committee Member 5 School



In “Unsuitable for Framing: Race, Representation and Recoding Hurricane Maria in the Age of Trump” I examine the words of President Donald Trump in showing that, throughout his presidency, he perpetuated the “white frame,” a means of emphasizing and reinforcing the hegemony of white supremacy in American society, culture, and politics, through discourse in mass media. I look specifically at his choice of words regarding Hurricane Maria and its impact on the American territory of Puerto Rico, inhabited by a majority-minority Hispanic population. I also contrast his use of racially coded “dog whistle” messages with that pf previous presidents and presidential candidates, along with analysis of media coverage of the storm’s aftermath.

I employ framing as the theoretical framework for this study and Stuart Hall’s encoding/decoding approach as its methodology to unpack the coded rhetoric of a president who embraced it as part of a “politically incorrect” mode of communication that helped him easily connect with an adoring base of followers, including through his then favorite mode of communication – Twitter – as well as at press conferences and public events in which he spoke about the storm and its effect on the U.S. island territory, American aid to the island, his assessment of the island’s leadership and comments about the storm’s death toll.

The structure of this dissertation is as follows: the Introduction will feature my proposal; Chapter 2 is a presentation of literature reviews, sources for examination of the issues to be studies, the theoretic framework, and the methodology; Chapter 3 looks at communication by past presidents and presidential candidates with regard to racially coded political language and messages; Chapter 4 focuses on Hurricane Maria, specifically President Trump’s communications about the event regarding relief efforts, relationship with island officials, comments about its residents, the death toll, and the intersection with media coverage and the conflict between news agencies and the president; in the Conclusion, I reflect on the study to this point, including thoughts on the research questions proposed, and how other issues regarding public discourse and race would be appropriate for further study.

Available for download on Sunday, August 01, 2032