This was in an article in Newsmax:

Stressing his loyalty, Cohen has steadfastly denied wrongdoing and defended Trump. But he has confided in associates in recent weeks that he is fearful of being a fall guy, according to a person familiar with his thinking but not authorized to speak publicly about private discussions

The whole article: https://www.newsmax.com/politics/cohen-fall-guy-trump-raids/2018/04/10/id/853779/

I googled the definition of "fall guy" and found that it means "scapegoat." But I find nothing in the article that matches the notion that Cohen was concerned about being a scapegoat.

Scapegoat: one that bears the blame for others

My interpretation of the article makes this seem like an odd use of a term that would mean scapegoat. It seems to me that the article is saying that Cohen is loyal to Trump and would be willing to sacrifice greatly for Trump, and that he has already taken steps to aid Trump that may put himself at risk.

Cohen has regularly threatened lawsuits against those who pose a challenge to Trump. He has berated reporters for writing an unflattering word about his boss. He has worked with tabloids, including the National Enquirer, to kill unfavorable stories about Trump. And, he has said, he used a home-equity loan to finance the payment to Daniels in the final days of the 2016 campaign and did so without Trump’s knowledge.

These don't seem to be the actions of a scapegoat but of a martyr. Is there any alternative definition of "fall guy" that would mean that Cohen is more of a martyr, falling on his sword for Trump on purpose, rather than a scapegoat, taking blame for something that was done by someone else?

Can someone help explain this use of "fall guy?"

  • Fall guy is a person who either by prior designation or by spontaneity takes the blame for something a group did wrong, sounds to me like a scapegoat.
    – Zebrafish
    Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 15:31
  • Fall guy dates back at least to 1920s gangster slang. Other workable words would include patsy, pigeon, chump, fool...
    – user862888
    Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 17:21

1 Answer 1


"Fall Guy" is someone who takes the fall for someone else. This can either be knowingly and willingly, in which case it would be similar to martyr, or it can be unknowingly/unwillingly, in which case it would be similar to scapegoat.

The article you linked to suggests that Cohen is publicly acting like he fully supports the president and that neither of them did anything wrong, but in private has expressed that he is worried he will end up being the "fall guy" for Trump.

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