In one of his early morning tweets Tuesday, the President of the United States lashed out at a sitting US senator, appeared to imply that she offered to trade sexual favors for campaign donations, and then called her "used."
"Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office "begging" for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump. Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!" Trump tweeted.
And yes, of course, there's some plausible deniability there. Maybe "begging" is in quotes because the President just puts quotes around random words. Maybe when he said she "would do anything for them," he didn't mean the word "anything" literally. Maybe his all-caps "USED!" meant she used the Clintons. The President is not actually renowned for his use of words (the "best words" they are not), so there's some room for him to wiggle here.
But we all know what he meant, including Gillibrand herself, who said, "It was a sexist smear attempting to silence my voice."
We know because he has shown time and again that this is what Trump does when he feels threatened by a woman: He lashes out and demeans her, often with a sexual overtone. His ire came down on Gillibrand because she said he should resign, given that more than a dozen women have accused him of sexual harassment and assault, which he denies. How telling that his response is to sexually harass and attack her.
That is, by the way, what this is. Gillibrand's workplace is the Senate; Trump isn't her boss, but he works in a parallel institution in the federal government. And he just created an awfully hostile work environment for one of his colleagues by more or less appearing to call her a whore on Twitter. In any functional workplace, that would be a firing offense.
Instead, in Trump's twisted mind, this is him defending himself -- he didn't sexually harass those women, he says ... as he attacks a different woman in sexualized and misogynist terms.
The President is beyond shame. But, apparently, members of his administration have learned this drill, too. They are aiding and abetting this behavior, justifying it and covering for it.
His press secretary, Sarah Sanders, had the nerve to tell reporters last week that the 2016 election results were the answer to the allegations against Trump -- as if a question of fact ("Did Trump sexually harass women?) could be answered with the results of a popularity contest. In this case, that contest was decided with an electoral college victory, and not the popular vote, which Trump lost -- so by Sanders' logic does that mean the allegations against Trump are decisively true?
Sanders also said she had multiple eyewitness accounts refuting the claims of the Trump accusers, and then failed to produce them.
She should be ashamed: she's covering for a man who harasses women who challenge him by attempting to publicly humiliate them with sexualized and sexist slights. ("Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?," he remarked to an interviewer about Carly Fiorina his opponent in the primaries; "Fox viewers give low marks to bimbo @MegynKelly," he tweeted after one of the presidential debates.)
It is not just Sanders covering for Trump. The rest of his administration is implicated. So is the GOP as a whole -- after all, today Alabama is deciding who will win a US Senate seat, a choice between a Democrat and a man accused of preying on and molesting teenage girls (which he denies). The Republican Party threw its support behind the accused child predator (who also trails a long history of racism, homophobia and zero respect for the separation of church and state).
As we all shake our heads in clucking disapproval at the well-oiled Hollywood machine that protected and enabled people like Harvey Weinstein, we should also be looking with urgency to the White House and Congress, and the Republican Party currently dominating both.
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