Liking (sex) Respecting (as a person)
A succession of disturbing attacks on women have raised fresh questions about Donald Trump’s credibility as a presidential candidate and are an ugly reminder of his long-standing deeply questionable attitudes.
In the space of a single week he has insulted an opponent’s wife’s looks, defended an aide for manhandling a female reporter and said women should be punished for having abortions.
But his persistent attacks on women, which have caused widespread outrage, and have heightened alarm about him within the Republican party have not come from nowhere.
From flippant offensive comments about women to serious allegations of assault from those he has encountered through his relationships and career, Trump stands accused of misogyny to a degree that has not been seen in mainstream American politics for decades.
Having boasted in the 1990s that it did not matter what the media said about him “as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass” and “women – you have to treat them like shit”, Trump has indicated during his presidential campaign that his values remain unchanged. “Look at that face!” he said of his Republican opponent Carly Fiorina. “Would anyone vote for that?”
Republicans who fear the effect of Trump have been almost leading the chorus against him. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the highest ranking Republican woman in Congress, said this week that Trump’s remarks on women were “hurtful to the party”.
An anti-Trump group convened by former aides to Mitt Romney, the party’s 2012 presidential nominee, and Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor steamrolled by Trump in this year’s contest, released their own attack advertisement featuring female actors reading from a dossier of Trump’s past offensive remarks about women he described in terms such as “fat pig” and “bimbo”.
Republicans also fear the resurfacing of more serious allegations about Trump’s conduct towards women.
One woman who worked with Trump on a business venture in the 1990s told the Guardian earlier this year that she stood by allegations in a 1997 federal lawsuit that Trump sexually assaulted her and tried to rape her. The woman, whose identity we did not report, said in that lawsuit Trump touched her intimately without consent and left her “emotionally devastated [and] distraught”.
The woman accused Trump of entering into the business venture, which included beauty pageants, as a vehicle for seeking sex from women. At one stage, she alleged, Trump asked that she “provide [Trump] with access to a 17-year-old Czech contestant whom he described as a ‘sex object’”. At another point Trump “made denigrating, lewd comments about all women in general as ‘sex objects’”, according to the woman.
Shortly after Trump announced his presidential candidacy it also emerged that his first wife, Ivana, had alleged in testimony during their divorce that he had raped her in 1989.
When the allegation, first reported in a 1993 biography, resurfaced in the Daily Beast, a lawyer and aide to Trump told a reporter that the claim was moot because “you cannot rape your spouse”.
In a 1993 statement issued through Donald Trump’s lawyers, Ivana confirmed she had felt violated but said: “I referred to this as a ‘rape,’ but I do not want my words to be interpreted in a literal or criminal sense.”
The abortion dispute was only the latest flashpoint in the sharply controversial campaign for the White House being waged by the property developer and reality television personality. He has defended himself by repeatedly saying: “I cherish women.”
Yet when his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, was charged with battery on Tuesday for yanking the arm of a female reporter as she tried to ask questions, Trump responded not by dismissing his aide but assailing the reporter, Michelle Fields. He falsely accused Fields of changing her story and defended Lewandowski, who had falsely denied touching Fields.
Critics suggested Trump employed the type of language often used to discredit complainants in sexual assault cases.
As Lewandowski was charged at a police station in Florida, Trump was still dealing with the fallout of his decision to insult the appearance of Heidi Cruz, the wife of his leading opponent Ted Cruz and a partner at Goldman Sachs bank.
Trump reposted to Twitter a supporter’s split-screen image featuring an unflattering picture of Heidi Cruz next to a shot of his own wife, Melania, a former model, from a GQ magazine photoshoot in 2000. “A picture is worth a thousand words,” the post said. Trump had already issued a vague threat to “spill the beans” on Heidi Cruz, an apparent allusion to a past experience of depression.
Ted Cruz, an ultraconservative senator from Texas whose unpopularity among the Republican party establishment seemed unmatched until Trump’s entry to the presidential campaign, reacted furiously, ordering Trump to “leave Heidi the hell alone”.
The attack on Cruz’s wife followed a string of inflammatory remarks from Trump about Megyn Kelly, a prominent US news anchorwoman whose line of a questioning at a televised debate he objected to.
Despite widespread outrage at his suggestion that Kelly was combative towards him because she was menstruating, Trump has continued using his Twitter account to publicly insult Kelly, whose network Fox News is one of the most influential powerhouses in US conservatism.
“Trump’s problems with women – especially after the abortion comment – seem insurmountable,” Professor Jennifer Lawless, director of the Women and Politics Institute at American University, said. “His sexist commentary and anti-woman statements, coupled with the Republican policy positions he espouses, make it virtually impossible to envision any scenario whereby 50% of female voters would cast their ballots for him.”
The Guardian sourced