White House counsel wrote to House speaker a letter on October 8th refusing to cooperate with House’s impeachment inquiry into President Trump’s dealing with Ukraine, that reads:

“Given that your inquiry lacks any legitimate constitutional foundation, any pretense of fairness or even the most elementary due process protections, the Executive Branch cannot be expected to participate in it.” – The Hill Oct. 9

It seems to me the word, “pretense” being used here in different manner from usual usage as defined in dictionaries at hand;

  • A way of behaving that is intended to deceive people – Cambridge Dictionary
  • A claim, esp, an unsupported one as to some distinction or accomplishment, pretention – Collins dictionary
  • The act of behaving in a particular way, in order to make other people believe sth that is not true. - Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary

And it sounds like something like “rules” rather than 'pretension' and 'deception.'

What does “pretense” in the above sentence mean?

  • 1
    In colloquial speech, when one says there isn't even a "pretense" of some (presumably positive) behavior, it implies that evidence of the desirable behavior is completely lacking. Of course, in this case the pot is calling the kettle black.
    – Hot Licks
    Oct 9, 2019 at 0:55

1 Answer 1


It means, it’s not even trying to be fair.

It means it is blatantly unfair, the unfairness showing itself openly with absolutely no effort to hide it - with no effort to use pretense, which is an aspect of diplomacy or tact, to cover it up.


An attempt to make something that is not the case appear true.

"his smile is a pretense that masks his hidden anger"


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.