Such a naïf was I in the early days of the Trump era that when then-presidential candidate Trump tried to explain away his controversial remark about Megyn Kelly in August 2015, I tended to believe him. In case you’ve forgotten, Trump was aggrieved because Kelly, as a debate panelist, asked him tough but fair questions regarding some derogatory comments he had made about women.
Complaining about her queries in a subsequent interview, Trump said: “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.” A Trump spokesperson later contended Trump had said “whatever,” but listening to the interview, it sounds like “wherever.”
Either way, that was widely interpreted as Trump saying Kelly was menstruating. Trump claimed otherwise, saying he had meant blood coming out of her nose.
I was inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt, for a simple reason: I didn’t think anyone waging a campaign for president would intentionally make such a crude and public reference. Or anyone not running for president, for that matter. What noncaveman talks that way?
Fast forward to this week, when Trump attacked Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, who has been leading the charge to remind America of all the women who have accused Trump of sexual misconduct. Trump, of course, was soon on the Twitter attack. “Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Charles E. 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,” he tweeted.
Anyone at this point think he didn’t intend the obvious sexual innuendo there?
It was left to Sarah Huckabee Sanders to try to deny those overtones at a White House briefing this week. Asked about the tweet’s sexual innuendo, she said: “I think only if your mind is in the gutter would you have read it that way.”
That might have worked once. Back when voters might not have known about his history of calling women fat pigs or dogs or slobs. Back before we became aware of the full range of credible accusations about Trump groping women or forcing kisses upon them. Back before we heard Trump on the “Access Hollywood” tape talking about his kissing and grabbing methods. Back before we had more experience with his method of making a comment or issuing a tweet whose message was apparent but whose wording was just ambiguous enough that he could later deny its obvious intent. Back before we were fully subject to his unceasing stream of untruths.
Sadly, we’ve become used to the idea that the president of the United States is crude, boorish, and bullying. To deny that, you have to wish away all that we’ve experienced since Trump first announced he was running for president. And if you believe his accusers — and at least a dozen different women have accused Trump of groping or forced kissing; his assertion that these accounts are all false beggars belief — he is sexually piggish as well.
Now, the president obviously won’t resign, as Gillibrand says he should, but in the post-Weinstein era, these women, too, deserve to be taken seriously. If this Republican Congress had any integrity, lawmakers would give them a forum to relate their experiences.
Don’t look for that to happen. But whether in television and radio interviews or on public forums and panels, their stories should be respectfully heard and considered. That too should be part of our national reckoning on sexual misconduct.