As readers of my column know, I’m no fan of Donald Trump. But I think the New York Times came up pretty empty and wasted its resources when it assigned six reporters to interview over fifty women. Their startling revelation? Trump liked good-looking women, was obsessed with how they looked, and liked to show off by surrounding himself with them as status symbols.
It is not surprising that a man with his preoccupation purchased three beauty pageants: Miss USA, Miss Teen USA, and Miss Universe. In 1997, he certainly acted boorishly with Temple Taggart, a 21-year-old Miss USA contestant. He did not assault her, but she was surprised when he kissed her:
He kissed me directly on the lips. I thought, “Oh my God, gross.” He was married to Marla Maples at the time. I think there were a few other girls that he kissed on the mouth. I was like, “Wow, that’s inappropriate.”
We also learn that he sorted out contestants in his beauty pageants according to those he found attractive and those he did not, was preoccupied with their bodies, said that women in Marina del Rey, California, “take care of their asses,” and very creepily asked a friend if he agreed that his 16-year-old daughter Ivanka was “hot.”
As the Times reporters write, many of the women he came in contact with saw him as immature. At times he treated women to a “cascade of casual insults, hurled from the safe distance of a Twitter account, a radio show or a campaign podium.” Some of it was sexist and insulting. They quote what he told a female contestant on The Celebrity Apprentice —“That must be a pretty picture, you dropping to your knees.” Not the kind of behavior towards women one seeks in an American president.
More seriously, at one time Ivana Trump said he raped her “in a fit of rage,” something he denied and which later she said she did not want to be interpreted “in a literal or criminal sense.” And one man who worked with him at a beauty pageant in Atlantic City told the reporter that he came on to his girlfriend and groped her under the table during dinner. The woman filed a lawsuit, but later withdrew the complaint and now supports him in the presidential race.
That’s it. Trump’s behavior has been sexist, crude and inappropriate, but let’s pause for a moment and compare his indiscretions to those of Bill Clinton. Christopher Hitchens, in his book No One Left to Lie To: The Triangulations of William Jefferson Clinton, described Clinton as “a serial rapist.” That may be a little over the top, but in addition to Clinton’s vile treatment of Monica Lewinsky, when Kathleen Willey came to him for help after her husband’s death he fondled her breasts and forced her to touch his penis, albeit through his pants. According to Juanita Broaddrick, Clinton raped her when he was attorney general of Arkansas (she was 23 at the time) and then tried to silence her. He exposed himself to Paula Jones and propositioned her when she thought she was going to see the governor to apply for a job, among other accusations.
Nothing Trump has done comes close to what these women accused Bill Clinton of doing, including while he was president of the United States. At the time, liberal Democrats and prominent feminists said not one thing in these women’s defense, since, as they often said, Bill was on the right side of the issues, especially abortion. Indeed, one famous female journalist wrote that she would sleep with him anytime, just to thank him for supporting abortion.
Aside from this less-than-shocking report on Trump’s conduct towards women, the Times also reports that some of the women they interviewed viewed him as “gracious and encouraging,” and that he actually “promoted several to the loftiest heights of his company,” which was “a daring move for a major real estate developer at the time.” One of them became a major real estate figure in her own right. Indeed, the story says that in a “rough-and-tumble industry thoroughly dominated by men, Mr. Trump’s office stood out for its diversity.” Clearly, rather than devastating for Trump, it is complimentary and something women could admire.
With this story, the New York Times has made itself look foolish and made Trump look good, or at least not so bad. The media and Trump’s opponents had better come up with something better than this if they are planning to go after him.