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Hiring Corey Lewandowski shows Pence is just as bad as Trump on women’s rights

Just because Pence doesn’t talk about grabbing women doesn’t mean he actually cares about their autonomy.

Vice President Mike Pence with President Donald Trump
Vice President Mike Pence with President Donald Trump.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Corey Lewandowski has a new job.

Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, who was charged with battery in 2016 after a female reporter said he forcibly grabbed her, will soon work for Vice President Mike Pence’s political action committee, according to Fox News.

The move is a signal from Pence “that there’s no daylight between him and his boss,” writes Howard Kurtz at Fox. It’s also a reminder that while Pence may have a kinder, gentler demeanor than President Trump, he’s no better — and maybe a lot worse — when it comes to women’s rights.

Lewandowski is one of a string of Trumpworld figures who have been accused of harming women. Trump has demonstrated that he couldn’t care less about such allegations, even mulling a comeback for Rob Porter, who was accused of physical abuse by his two ex-wives, one of whom provided chilling photos. Pence has always had a more benevolent image — you’d think that the man who once said he wouldn’t have a meal alone with a woman other than his wife would also steer clear of men accused of hurting women.

But his hiring of Lewandowski is a reminder that benevolent sexism is still sexism, and that just because Pence doesn’t talk about grabbing women “by the pussy” doesn’t mean he actually cares about their autonomy.

Pence’s history is different from Trump’s — but just as bad

Corey Lewandowski, then-candidate Trump’s campaign manager, was caught on video in March 2016 appearing to forcibly grab Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields by the arm. He was charged with battery, but prosecutors declined to proceed with the case after Trump reportedly urged them to “do the right thing.” Trump also implied on Twitter that Fields might be lying, asking, “Why aren’t people looking at this reporters earliest statement as to what happened, that is before she found out the episode was on tape?”

Since then, Lewandowski has stayed in Trump’s inner circle, Kurtz reports, with the president talking to him frequently and considering making him chief of staff. Now the former campaign manager will become an active part of Trump’s 2020 campaign as well as be able to travel with the vice president.

Pence’s embrace of Lewandowski just confirms what should have been obvious: that despite the difference in styles between the VP and his boss, there’s really little difference in substance. Pence might be famously devoted to his wife, whom he reportedly calls “mother.” He might be polite and personable. He might be free of the public accusations of sexual misconduct that have piled up against Trump.

But when push comes to shove, he has no problem welcoming onto his team a man who faced criminal charges for grabbing a woman.

And although Pence has always been less flagrantly offensive than his boss, there’s no reason to believe he’s any more of a friend to women. The “Pence rule” — never have dinner alone with a woman who’s not your wife — deprives women of mentorship opportunities and might even be illegal, as law professor Joanna Grossman wrote at Vox last year. “Men shouldn’t worry about being led unto temptation because, well, it is entirely within their control whether to harass a subordinate or initiate an affair,” Grossman pointed out.

Meanwhile, Pence’s record on reproductive rights makes clear he has little regard for women’s health or autonomy. Trump has long been wishy-washy on abortion, and while his administration has restricted reproductive rights on a number of fronts, it’s not clear that he personally cares much about the issue.

Pence, on the other hand, “is the one who turned defunding Planned Parenthood from a fringe issue into a mainstream GOP priority,” Emily Crockett noted at Vox last year. He sponsored a number of extreme anti-abortion bills in Congress, including one that would have “essentially re-defined rape for the specific purposes of abortion access.”

And he signed at least eight anti-abortion bills as governor of Indiana, including one that would have required (among other provisions) that all fetal tissue be cremated or buried, which he said would ensure “dignified final treatment of the unborn.” That bill was blocked by a judge because it imposed unconstitutional limits on a woman’s right to an abortion.

“We have a president who brags about grabbing women by the pussy — and a vice president who won’t even have dinner with them,” Grossman wrote last year. “These are two sides of the same coin.”

While Trump might be the only one attacking women on Twitter, Pence is apparently happy to help him bring a man accused of battery back into the presidential fold. That decision, along with his history, shows that his veneer of politeness is meaningless, and that misogyny is misogyny, whether it’s cloaked in good manners or not.