Once again, Republican nominee Donald Trump is defending the indefensible. Adding to his long history of supporting sexual offenders and shaming their victims, he has rushed to defend former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes. Ailes has just been fired by the board in response to mounting allegations of sexual harassment against his female employees, including Gretchen Carlson who made the first report, and Megyn Kelly.
In an interview on Friday Trump said,
“I can tell you that some of the women that are complaining, I know how much he’s helped them. When they write books that are fairly recently released, and they say wonderful things about him. And now all of a sudden they’re saying these horrible things about him.”
Trump is disrespecting the gravity of the allegations Ailes is facing. If any single allegation of sexual harassment is true, that in itself in grounds for immediate dismissal. Given the number of allegations facing Ailes, it seems increasingly likely that he is, in fact, a serial offender.
Trump also misses the point when he criticizes Ailes’ victims for not speaking out sooner. Writing negatively about their boss in books, for example, is a good way to lose their job, and possibly even face a libel suit. And, it goes without saying, coming out about being sexually harassed by a powerful public figure is a recipe for widespread scrutiny and shaming.
Trump continued by expressing his profound sympathies for Ailes – the alleged perpetrator of horrible discrimination against women in the workplace:
“I think it’s so sad. He’s such a great guy. Roger [Ailes] is – I mean, what he’s done on television, is in the history of television, he’s gotta be placed in the top three, or four or five. And that includes the founding of the major networks. So, it’s too bad. I’m sure it was friendly. I know Rupert [Murdoch]. He’s a great guy.”
Apparently, since Rupert Murdoch, the media mogul who owns Fox, is “a great guy,” anything sexual that occurred between CEO Ailes and his employees was “friendly.” Presumably “friendly” means ‘consensual.’ When a woman comes forward as a victim of sexual harassment, she often faces claims that she is lying about not wanting sexual contact or that she was trying to ‘sleep her way to the top.’
In actuality, Trump has no evidence to support the claim that any harassment was “friendly.” All we have to go on are the testimonies of female employees, who took Gretchen Carlson’s decision to speak up and leave her job as an opportunity to also tell their own stories.
This is not the first time Trump has victim blamed or defended high-profile sexual offenders. After Mike Tyson was convicted of raping Desiree Washington, Trump defended his friend by holding his victim responsible for the sexual contact. He said, “You have a young woman that was in his hotel room late in the evening at her own will.” Yes, but she did not have sex at her own will.
When it came out in the 1990s that then-President Bill Clinton was having sexual relations with his junior female colleagues, Trump said, “I don’t necessarily agree with his victims. His victims are a terrible… a terrible group of people.” In other words, he found the women unbelievable because he didn’t like them. Or more likely, he didn’t believe the women so he concluded that they were “terrible people.”
Trump declared Clinton the real victim of sexual harassment scandal. He also mocked the physical appearance of Clinton’s accusers, saying,“Linda Tripp may be one of the most unattractive human beings I’ve ever seen—not women, human beings. The whole group—Paula Jones, Lewinsky—it’s just a really unattractive group.”
Trump has no respect for women or for due process. If he decides that he likes someone, he defends them in the face of atrocious allegations or even convictions. This is not the man we want at the helm of our government.
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