The U.S. president has been quick to accuse minorities of crimes without evidence. When it comes to right-wing white males accused of violence against women, no amount of evidence is enough.
By DANIEL DALEWashington Bureau Chief
Saturday February 10, 2018
WASHINGTON—When a Border Patrol agent died under mysterious circumstances in November, U.S. President Donald Trump did not wait for any evidence of homicide before he suggested the agent was murdered by illegal immigrants.
When a gambling addict set a deadly fire at a Philippines casino in June, Trump did not wait for any evidence before he inaccurately declared the incident a “terrorist attack.”
And Trump has never waited for evidence before accusing political rivals of all sorts of implausible criminality. Relying on nothing but an absurd National Enquirer report, he suggested Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Relying on nothing at all, he accused Barack Obama of illegally wiretapping his phones.
Trump has a different standard for right-wing white males accused of harming women. Specifically: no amount of evidence is sufficient.
For a president who holds himself out as tough on crime, nothing at all — multiple reports from accusers who don’t know each other, a photograph of a swollen face, even a dead body — has been enough to prompt a swift and direct condemnation.
A mantra of the #MeToo movement is “believe women.” If Trump had a mantra, it’d be something like: “Believe conservative guys, or at least play down their wrongdoing.”
Trump campaigned for Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore after he was accused of sexually assaulting and harassing multiple teenage girls. After Heather Heyer was killed in Charlottesville, Va., allegedly by a white supremacist, Trump generically denounced “violence on many sides, on many sides.”
Trump did not even pretend to go through the motions of denouncing ex-aide Rob Porter.
Porter, Trump’s staff secretary, resigned Wednesday after he was accused of abusing both of his ex-wives, one of whom provided news outlets with a photograph of a black eye she said he caused by punching her.
On Friday, Trump expressed sympathy. For … Porter.
“It’s a, obviously, tough time for him,” Trump said. “He did a very good job when he was in the White House. And we hope he has a wonderful career and hopefully he will have a great career ahead of him. But it was very sad when we heard about it, and certainly he’s also very sad now. He also, as you probably know, he says he’s innocent, and I think you have to remember that. He said very strongly yesterday that he’s innocent.”
He said nothing about Porter’s accusers. He said nothing about violence against women. He had appeared far more agitated when he spoke out in November against Black teenage athletes arrested in China for shoplifting sunglasses.
“… Shoplifting is NOT a little thing. It’s a really big deal, especially in China” he said on Twitter.
The divergence in Trump’s responses to various incidents is no mystery.
Why does the president enthusiastically condemn non-white criminals? Part personality, part strategy: he has a long history of both personal racism and using racism to excite bigots in his voter base.
Why is the president unwilling to condemn men accused of crimes against women? Part personality, part strategy.
On the strategic side, Trump is himself a man accused of crimes against women. He and his aides appear to see any admission that women’s charges can be believed as a weakening of Trump’s own defence.
But it would be wrong to attribute his remarks strictly to political considerations. Much of it, by all accounts, is simply a reflection of how he feels.
Whether or not Trump is guilty of the dozen sexual assaults he has been accused of, he has a long history of demonstrable sexism. And he does not seem to be troubled by claims that men have mistreated women.
After Fox News host Bill O’Reilly paid millions to settle harassment cases, Trump said in April: “He is a good person … I don't think Bill did anything wrong.” After Fox News chairman Roger Ailes was ousted over harassment claims, Trump continued to use him as a close adviser. He has said nothing about a report alleging decades of sexual harassment by his friend and fundraiser Steve Wynn.
Trump was not even comfortable with the softest of softball questions about workplace harassment. When Piers Morgan asked him in January if he can “sign up” to the goal of women being safe at work, he offered two words on the subject — “I do” — before pivoting to illegal immigrants.
“I do, but I also think they want to feel safe at the border. I think they don’t want people pouring into their country,” he said.
There was at least one case in which Trump took a strong stand against a domestic abuser.
“If @rihanna is dating @chrisbrown again then she has a death wish. A beater is always a beater--just watch!” he wrote on Twitter in 2012.
With the benefit of hindsight, Brown’s race appears uncoincidental.
Trump’s feeble remarks on Porter fanned a controversy that was embarrassing for the White House. Chief of staff John Kelly and counsel Don McGahn were already facing questions about why they failed to fire Porter — and, in fact, gave him a bigger role — even though they knew about the allegations for months.
Before Trump spoke, reports had begun to emerge that he was furious with his team, Kelly in particular, for allegedly not informing him about Porter’s past.
Trump’s words made those stories seem like self-serving spin. Even if he had been told, he showed the world he would not have much cared.
His remarks dismayed advocates for victims, who said such a message from the president might have a chilling effect. “When leadership sets a tone of sympathy for those who have abused,” said Joyce Yedlosky, team coordinator for the West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence, “it sets a tone that perhaps victims aren’t believed. It kind of takes us a couple steps back where victims might not be comfortable coming forward.”
In an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, Vice-President Mike Pence declared, “There’s no tolerance in this White House, no place in America, for domestic abuse.” He promised to “look into the matter and share my counsel with the president.”
On the question of this White House’s obvious tolerance for domestic abuse, it is clear, the matter is the president.