NEW YORK ― President Donald Trump tried to deflect attention away from his campaign’s repeated lies about its dealings with the Russian government and onto Hillary Clinton Wednesday morning, spouting off on Twitter that he is being held to a different standard than the former secretary of state.
Trump is right. Clinton was held to a very different standard during the campaign and would likely be treated differently as president, too. Let us count the ways.
Clinton was repeatedly criticized for smiling too little and then smiling too much during presidential debates, despite demonstrating competence and logic around policy. Male pundits and politicians said her raised voice during speeches came off as “shrill.”
Trump, meanwhile, aggressively interrupted Clinton during debates and launched childish insults at his opponents. He made bizarre facial expressions while other candidates spoke, criticized the face of a female candidate, referred to the size of his penis in a primary debate and served up word salads that revealed very few details about his policy positions. But in the end, she was the one who struggled to be “likeable” enough.
Throughout the election, polls consistently showed that more voters viewed Clinton as “dishonest” than viewed Trump that way, despite the fact that Trump lied twice as much. Fact-checking website PolitiFact evaluated 203 of Trump’s statements and 226 of Clinton’s and concluded in July 2016 that although fewer than a third of Clinton’s were “mostly false” or worse, a full 71 percent of Trump’s statements were untrue. But up until election day, the public struggled to trust her while apparently accepting his lies and falsehoods as just part of his overall eccentricity.
Scandals and lies
Both candidates had scandals. Both were accused of crimes. But the voters and politicians who brayed for the imprisonment of Clinton, chanting “lock her up” because she used a private email server as secretary of state, were not chanting “lock him up” when more than a dozen women accused Trump of sexual assault. Trump even bragged on tape that he had groped women’s vaginas without consent, and then-Senator (now Attorney General) Jeff Sessions questioned whether the action Trump had described was a crime.
Trump then invited three women to a presidential debate who have accused former President Bill Clinton of sexual assault ― as if Clinton should be held as responsible for her husband’s actions as Trump should be for his own.
While Clinton never managed to escape coverage of her email scandal, nothing Trump did during the campaign, no matter how shocking, seemed to stick in voters’ minds. Clinton’s emails overshadowed the entire election, whereas Trump had so many scandals that none was ever able to define him, according to an analysis by researchers at Gallup, Georgetown University, and the University of Michigan.
But Clinton’s “scandals,” by all measures, are not even in the same league as the scandals now plaguing the Trump administration. Federal investigations into her use of a private email server as secretary of state ― a mistake that arguably cost her the election ― have so far resulted in no criminal charges or revelations of corruption beyond her admission that she used her personal phone for state business. Republicans also spent years and millions of dollars investigating her role in the Benghazi attack ― at one point grilling her on the subject for 11 hours ― without turning up any new evidence of wrongdoing.
One can only imagine how Republicans might treat Clinton ― and how the public would perceive her ― if evidence turned up that her campaign tried to collude with a hostile foreign government to tip the election in her favor and then lied about it.
Meanwhile, more evidence implicates Trump’s campaign of doing exactly that, and his supporters either refuse to believe it or simply don’t care. Multiple members of Trump’s administration and campaign team have repeatedly been caught lying about their interactions with officials from Russia ― a longtime rival of the United States ― and his son has now revealed he was trying to collude with the Russian government to help him win. On top of that, the president allegedly tried to squash a Federal Bureau of Investigation probe of his former national security adviser, and then he fired the man in charge of that investigation ― which legal experts predict will lead to a felony charge of obstruction of justice.
Trump’s son changed his story several times before finally releasing an email chain showing that he agreed to meet with a Russian lawyer with the understanding that the Kremlin was trying to help Trump’s campaign. But the president ― who coined the nickname “crooked Hillary” ― responded by tweeting that his son is a “high-quality person,” and a Republican senator said the scandal is not “relevant” to the Trump administration.
So yes, it’s fair to conclude that Hillary Clinton would be held to a different standard as president ― the same double standard that lost her the election.