Donald Trump is a bigot.
This is not exactly a secret. He rose to political prominence by claiming the first black president wasn't really American but Kenyan. He launched his presidential campaign by calling Mexican immigrants to the US "rapists," and doubled down when criticized. His most famous proposal is a total moratorium on Muslim entry to the United States.
But a report from the New York Times's Michael Barbaro and Megan Twohey has shone a light on a less examined side of Trump's bigotry: his long, persistent hatred and mistreatment of women. Former New Republic editor Franklin Foer has described misogyny as Trump's "one core belief." He's not wrong.
The accusations in the Times's exposé — some denied by Trump, some not — are damning:
- Temple Taggart, a former Miss Utah, said that he kissed her on the lips at the Miss USA pageant, twice, against her will.
- Carrie Prejean, a former Miss California, recalled Trump ordering contestants to line up in revealing outfits so he could "divide the room between girls he personally found attractive and those he did not. … Some of the girls were sobbing backstage after he left."
- Barbara Res, a former head of construction for Trump, says he would needle her for gaining weight, saying, "You like your candy." Louise Sunshine, another veteran of the Trump Organization, recalls similar comments but interpreted them as loving.
- Res recalled Trump not allowing a woman he deemed unattractive to take lunch orders for outside visitors to the office.
- He forced former Miss Universe Alicia Machado to work out at a gym with media present when he judged her to have gained too much weight. "After that episode," she told the Times, "I was sick, anorexia and bulimia for five years."
After the piece came out, one woman featured, Rowanne Brewer Lane, objected to her portrayal. But even without her story, it's a horrifying portrait of Trump. Much of the worst behavior recounted in the piece has been public for years. Prejean documented the incident mentioned above in her 2009 memoir Still Standing.
In a 1996 deposition, pageant producer Jill Harth recalled a 1993 business meeting with Trump and her then-boyfriend, George Houraney, at which Trump declared his intention to sleep with Harth, and proceeded to grope her under the table at dinner. Harth's suit against Trump further alleged that Trump tried to corner her in his daughter's bedroom:
The defendant (Trump) over the plaintiff’s objections forcibly prevented plaintiff from leaving and forcibly removed plaintiff to a bedroom, whereupon defendant (Trump) subjected plaintiff to defendant’s unwanted sexual advances, which included touching of plaintiff’s private parts in an act constituting attempted "rape."
The Times piece also touches on the rape accusation Trump's ex-wife Ivana Trump made in a deposition. While Ivana has since rescinded the accusation and called it "totally without merit," her original charge, as explained by the Daily Beast's Tim Mak and Brandy Zadrozny based on journalist Harry Hurt III's 1993 book about Trump, was disturbing:
Donald held back Ivana’s arms and began to pull out fistfuls of hair from her scalp, as if to mirror the pain he felt from his own operation. He tore off her clothes and unzipped his pants.
"Then he jams his penis inside her for the first time in more than sixteen months. Ivana is terrified… It is a violent assault," Hurt writes. "According to versions she repeats to some of her closest confidantes, ‘he raped me.’"
Foer highlights more of Trump's sexist private conduct. Trump once left a voicemail for conservative journalist Tucker Carlson, saying: "It’s true you have better hair than I do. But I get more pussy than you do."
And then there are Trump's public comments:
- According to a 1992 New York magazine piece, he once said, "Women: you have to treat 'em like shit."
- He declared, "Rosie O’Donnell is disgusting — both inside and out. If you take a look at her, she’s a slob. How does she even get on television? If I were running The View, I’d fire Rosie. I’d look her right in that fat, ugly face of hers and say, ‘Rosie, you’re fired.’ We’re all a little chubby but Rosie’s just worse than most of us."
- He told the Daily News he'd "send one of my friends to pick up [O'Donnell's] girlfriend and I think it would be very easy." Also on her then-partner, Kelli Carpenter, he told Fox News, "Can you imagine the parents of Kelli ... when she said, 'Mom, Dad, I just fell in love with a big, fat pig named Rosie'? Can you imagine the expression on their face?"
- He told Celebrity Apprentice contestant and former Playboy Playmate Brande Roderick, "It must be a pretty picture. You dropping to your knees."
- He once sent a copy of a piece New York Times columnist Gail Collins wrote that criticized him back to her, with her face circled and, "The Face of a Dog" written on it.
- He told Esquire, "You know, it doesn't really matter what [the media] write as long as you've got a young and beautiful piece of ass."
- In his book How to Get Rich, he wrote, "All of the women on The Apprentice flirted with me — consciously or unconsciously. That's to be expected."
- He told a lawyer who requested a break from a deposition to pump breast milk, "You're disgusting."
- In appearances on The Howard Stern Show, he speculated that he could've had sex with Princess Diana if he'd wanted to before her death, called avoiding STDs from casual sex his "personal Vietnam," assigned each actor on Desperate Housewives an attractiveness score from 1 to 10 (on Nicollette Sheridan: "A person who is very flat-chested is very hard to be a 10")…
- …said of his and Melania's future children, "I mean, I won't do anything to take care of them," called women who get breast reductions "insane," said women who see him "will walk up, and they'll flip their top, and they'll flip their panties," and declared that it would be hard for him to get an erection for Madonna. He really did say all those things on that show.
- Foer notes that he frequently brags about sleeping with married or otherwise attached women, telling Stern, "I’ve been successful with your girlfriend, I’ll tell you that," and writing in The Art of the Comeback, "If I told the real stories of my experiences with women, often seemingly very happily married and important women, this book would be a guaranteed best-seller."
- He infamously said of his own daughter, "I don’t think Ivanka would do that [pose for Playboy], although she does have a very nice figure. I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her."
- He called Karen Attiah, a Washington Post editor, "beautiful" after she asked him serious policy questions at an editorial board meeting.
- He told biographer Timothy L. O'Brien that his favorite part of Pulp Fiction is the scene "when Sam has his gun out in the diner and he tells the guy to tell his girlfriend to shut up. Tell that bitch to be cool. Say: ‘Bitch, be cool.’ I love those lines."
- Of Arianna Huffington, he declared, "I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man — he made a good decision."
.@ariannahuff is unattractive both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man- he made a good decision.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 28, 2012
And we haven't even gotten to Trump's comments during this presidential cycle. When Fox News's Megyn Kelly confronted him on his sexist comments, he laughed them off, saying to the applause of the audience that he only insulted Rosie O'Donnell, and declaring, "I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct."
After the debate, he turned on Kelly, telling CNN, "She gets out and she starts asking me all sorts of ridiculous questions. You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her ... wherever." He retweeted someone calling her a bimbo:
"@timjcam: @megynkelly @FrankLuntz @realDonaldTrump Fox viewers give low marks to bimbo @MegynKelly will consider other programs!"— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 7, 2015
And there are certainly plenty more instances of Trump misogyny the above list misses.
You can nitpick this or that item on the list. You can point to other parts of Trump's record to claim he sometimes support women. But to deny the sheer volume of evidence that Trump has systematically attacked, belittled, dismissed, and otherwise mistreated women in classically misogynistic ways, you have to ignore reams and reams of evidence. He is, at heart, a virulent sexist.
Trump's sexism deserves a hearing alongside his racism
Much commentary on Trump's candidacy has focused on his invocation of white nationalist rhetoric to demonize Mexican Americans and Muslim Americans, in a way that has cheered avowed white supremacists and drawn comparisons to right-wing European populists like Pim Fortuyn or Geert Wilders.
Given that the defining question of American politics, since our founding, has been whether to continue and how to dismantle discrimination against racial minorities, this is an entirely reasonable point to consider. Trump is bringing back open white racial resentment in a way not seen since the George Wallace campaign of 1968. That's alarming and notable.
But bigotries feed off each other. One 2006 study by Allison C. Aosved and Patricia J. Long tested about 1,000 college students on a number of attitude scales, including ones for sexism and racism, and found that the two were strongly correlated with each other. "Each of these intolerant belief systems was strongly correlated with the other belief systems," they write, with modern sexism and modern racism particularly closely linked.
It goes deeper than a simple correlation. Harvard psychologist Jim Sidanius and the University of Connecticut's Felicia Pratto have developed a school of thought known as "social dominance theory," which holds that racism, sexism, homophobia, and the like are all particularized cases of a general inclination toward dominance and hierarchy. They've found considerable evidence that support for social dominance is correlated with a wide range of prejudices, not just now but in the future — suggesting an underlying desire for dominance can both fuel and be fueled by specific prejudices against women, minorities, etc.
One influential 1995 paper by Penn State psychologist Janet Swim and her co-authors Kathryn Aikin, Wayne Hall, and Barbara Hunter found that modern sexism and racism share a structure: "Like modern racism, modern sexism is characterized by the denial of continued discrimination, antagonism toward women's demands, and lack of support for policies designed to help women (for example, in education and work)."
Sometimes Trump's misogyny is passed off as a fun quirk, a sign of his peculiar over-the-top persona. "People talk, ‘oh your father’s a misogynist look what he said about women,’ like, on Howard Stern," his son, Donald Trump Jr., has griped. "When he gets with Howard Stern, who’s a friend of his, he’ll joke around, because it’s a comedy show. He’s allowed to have a personality. He will."
But this is not Trump "having a personality" or "joking around." It's time to start treating his comments about women with the seriousness and gravity that his comments about race have, quite correctly, received. When Trump says he wants to keep Muslims out of the country, it's not a funny goof. When he says it's important to treat women like shit, it's not a funny goof either.