Donald Trump may be unpredictable, but he's been pretty consistent in one way: Standing up for men accused of being abusive to women, while at the same time seeking to undermine their female accusers. This November, in the first national election since the start of the #MeToo movement, Trump and the Republican Party may pay a price for it.
President Trump's most recent defense of his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and attacks against Kavanaugh's accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, will not help his party's cause. Just look at how Trump has spoken about Kavanaugh and Ford after we learned of the allegation that Kavanaugh physically and sexually assaulted Ford while they were both in high school -- an allegation which Kavanaugh vehemently denies. Trump has been publicly heaping praise on Kavanaugh, calling him a "great gentleman" and a person with an "outstanding intellect" who "never even had a little blemish on his record." Trump even expressed his sympathy to Kavanaugh's family, saying he felt "terribly for them" for having to endure the consequences of Ford's allegation -- including threats made against the nominee.
But when it comes to Ford, there's no support, empathy or compassion. Though Trump initially said she should be heard, on Thursday, Trump said, it's "very hard for me to imagine that anything happened" in regard to Ford's claim. Then, on Friday, Trump took to Twitter to further attack her integrity: "I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents." And despite Ford having reportedly "been the target of vicious harassment and even death threats" which forced her family to flee their home, Trump hasn't offered one word of sympathy to her family.
But this is nothing new. For decades, Trump has taken the side of men over the women who have bravely come forward to report they had been victims of abuse. One of the first examples was in 1992, when Trump defended boxer Mike Tyson even after Tyson had been convicted of rape. Trump publicly claimed Tyson was "railroaded in the case" and he even suggested that the victim, Desiree Washington, was at fault to some degree, saying, "You have a young woman that was in his hotel room late in the evening at her own will."
Then there were Bill Clinton's sex scandals involving Paula Jones, Monica Lewinsky and others. Trump publicly sided with Clinton, who he called the "victim," as he blasted the accusers as a "terrible group of people," adding they were also physically "unattractive." Of course, in 2016, when it was politically expedient, Trump called several of Bill Clinton's accusers "courageous" and invited them to Trump's debate against Hillary Clinton.
But that same year we saw Trump defend former Fox News chief Roger Ailes after 25 women came forward to accuse him of sexual harassment and misconduct. Trump even said the victims were being ungrateful: "I can tell you that some of the women that are complaining, I know how much he's helped them," as he defended Ailes as "a very, very good person." Ailes denied the allegations.
In 2017, Trump defended two more men accused of being abusive to women. First, there was Fox News's Bill O'Reilly. "I don't think Bill did anything wrong," said Trump. (O'Reilly surely appreciated Trump's comment, since he still maintains his innocence.) And then Trump infamously sided with Republican US Senate candidate Roy Moore over the various women who reported inappropriate conduct by Moore -- declaring, "Look, he denies it."
Perhaps the vilest example came in February of this year when Trump defended his then-aide Rob Porter who had been accused of being physically abusive to his two ex-wives, Colbie Holderness and Jennifer Willoughby, accusations that Porter denied. Despite the public release of a photo of Holderness with a black eye, Trump, as usual, didn't show any support for the two women. Trump only expressed concern for Porter, saying, "We certainly wish him well. It's obviously a very tough time for him. ... We hope that he will have a wonderful career."
And, of course, Trump did the same when numerous women in the closing weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign alleged Trump had sexually assaulted them -- allegations he, not surprisingly, denied. Trump responded at an October 2016 rally that these women were all "liars," to the cheers of his supporters.
Trump won the 2016 presidential election, but that was before the #MeToo movement took off. The question now is -- come November, will Trump finally be held accountable? True, Trump isn't on the ballot, but midterm elections are generally seen as a referendum on the President.
And polling shows Trump, and the GOP by extension, could be in big trouble with America's women. In the 2016 election, Trump received the support of 41% of female voters. How is Trump faring today?
A recent CNN poll found that only 29% of women approve of the job Trump is doing as president -- compared to 42% of men.
My hope is that female voters -- along with their allies -- will vote in large numbers this Election Day to send a message to Trump that women should be believed, not demonized. If that happens, it will mean that #MeToo is no longer just a cultural movement but a powerful electoral one as well.