Donald Trump’s aggressive misogyny was on full display this week. Actually, it was just one day: Thursday, when the president of the United States demeaned women and the victims of sexual abuse while rushing to defend men accused of enabling sexual misconduct.
First the White House announced that former Fox News co-president Bill Shine would be Trump’s new deputy chief of staff for communications. Shine is best known for helping Fox News co-founder and erstwhile chairman Roger Ailes and former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly get away with sexual misconduct for years.
Later in the day Trump defended another man, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who is accused of overlooking the sexual abuse of college athletes when he was a wrestling coach at Ohio State University in the late 1980s and early ’90s.
Trump capped off the day by mocking Me Too, a powerful feminist movement that threatens men like him ― the grab-’em-by-the-pussy president. Thanks to Me Too, it has become harder to get away with sexual assault.
At this point, no one is surprised that Trump would publicly disparage women or victims of sexual abuse.
Still, that doesn’t mean women should be complacent about Trump’s behavior. “If we stop calling attention to the ways in which a sitting president defends and enables abusers, then we lose all of hope of trying to stop him,” said Karin Roland, the chief campaigns officer at UltraViolet, a women’s advocacy organization that came out against Shine’s hire in a statement on Thursday.
But on that day Trump once again made clear that he stands with those men accused of sexual misconduct ― a pattern that has more clearly emerged over the past year.
That’s who he identifies with, after all, having been accused himself by at least 20 women of various sexual misdeeds, including assault and rape.
“It would be unbelievable, but it’s exactly what we’re used to from this president,” Roland said.
Her group was instrumental in forcing Shine’s ouster last year from Fox News, where he was reportedly a key player in perpetuating a toxic culture, not only covering up sexual misconduct allegations but also defending perpetrators.
His exact duties are not yet clear, but it appears that, as deputy chief of staff, he once again will take on management duties, supervising the press and communications teams, according to The New York Times.
“Mr. Shine has been accused over and over again of covering up for accused harassers Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly and others, while the women were driven out of the industry entirely,” tweeted Lisa Bloom, an attorney who represented several Fox News accusers.
Former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson tweeted on Thursday, “Life … works in mysterious ways,” noting that Shine’s hire was announced almost exactly two years after she filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Ailes.
“Sorry for this insult Gretchen, insult to us all, who now have to pay Shine’s salary,” one Twitter user wrote in response. Carlson replied, “Thank you.”
But if the insult of the Shine hire was too subtle to catch, there was more to come. Also on Thursday, Trump praised Jordan, whom five men have accused of turning a blind eye to sexual abuse by a doctor at Ohio State when Jordan was an assistant wrestling coach at the university.
Calling Jordan an “outstanding man,” Trump said he believed the congressman when he said he knew nothing at the time about what was going on.
“I believe him 100 percent. No question in my mind,” Trump told reporters before a rally in Montana on Thursday.
His comments echoed previous statements of support for other men who were accused of sexual misconduct, including failed Senate candidate Roy Moore, accused of preying on girls and young women. “He says it didn’t happen. You have to listen to him,” the president said of Moore in November.
When domestic violence accusations ― including photo evidence ― surfaced against White House aide Rob Porter this year, Trump said Porter was “innocent.”
Still, if you didn’t get the message that Trump stands by the accused and not the accusers, he made his position even clearer Thursday night in Montana, where he mocked the Me Too movement.
“We will take that little kit and say ― but we have to do it gently because we’re in the Me Too generation, so we have to be very gentle,” Trump said. “And we will very gently take that kit, and we will slowly toss it to her. Hoping it doesn’t hit her and injure her arm, even though it only weighs about 2 ounces.”
It was a clear attempt to diminish Me Too. Yet there’s irony in this. The movement has surely grown in response to Trump’s actions and statements.
“Women have been speaking out about sexual assault and abuse for generations, and that’s not new,” said Roland. “But there’s been an urgency and a wake-up call to a lot of people about the problem that has been informed by the fact that the country knowingly elected a sexual abuser.”