Trump admin faces #MeToo crisis

By Mitchell Blatt
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, September 19, 2018
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In this file photo taken on Sept. 5, 2018, U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh speaks on the second day of his confirmation hearing in front of the U.S. Senate in Washington DC. [Photo/VCG]

Donald Trump's attempt to get another conservative ally appointed as a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court faced a setback this week when a woman who accused nominee Brett Kavanaugh of attempted rape went public. In a country where long overdue attention is finally being paid to powerful men who get away with sexual assault, these allegations are enough to at least slow down, if not stop, what was presumed to be an easy nomination.

The manner in which the Trump administration and Congressional Republican leadership have responded, however, illustrates just how far we still have to go to make it safe for women to come forward and expose sexual harassment. Republican leaders reacted to the charges initially with aggressive denials and sexist messaging.

On September 14, the same day it was first publicly revealed that Kavanaugh was accused by a then anonymous woman of attempted rape, Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Republican chairman of the Judicial Committee, released a letter signed by 65 of Kavanaugh's high school friends and acquaintances attesting to his "friendship, character, and integrity" and claiming "he has always treated women with decency and respect."

The 65 friends were all women, and the intent and message of the letter were clear. Kavanaugh did not rape those women, but in fact treated them very well, so how could Kavanaugh have sexually assaulted anyone?

That Kavanaugh's friends would have signed a letter in his support is not surprising. He attended an elite prep school in the DC area, and the fact that he is good at networking and making political allies is not questioned by anyone. His was a prep school where the scions of powerful families drank and caroused in preparation for frat lifestyles in college. But the letter tells us nothing about what Kavanaugh may or may not have done one night 35 years ago at a party that none of the signatories attended. Not one of the 65 people who signed the letter were actual witnesses.

The idea that a man should be absolved of scrutiny because he is good to his friends is one of the very reasons that make it hard for women to come forward. For years, it was assumed that comedian Bill Cosby couldn't have sexually assaulted anyone because of his image as a likable father figure on TV. In April 2018, he was convicted of three counts of sexual assault.

Men who commit sex crimes are often slick and manipulative. Even serial murderers like Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer were known for being "gentlemen" as they lured their victims in. This is to say that the intended message of the letter is based on an absurd logical flaw and nothing more.

When men commit sexual improprieties, they are often dismissed as "boys being boys." Donald Trump, caught on tape talking about "grabbing women by the pussy" and kissing them without their consent, stated that his comments were merely "locker room talk," and the Republican Party rallied around him. 

The first instinct upon hearing a sexual assault allegation should not be to try and stop the inquiry in its tracks and attack the accuser. Men and women who had no knowledge of the facts rushed to defend Kavanaugh. The 65 women who signed the letter wanted to use their status to defend a powerful man seeking more power. They were mostly just ordinary people, so we can't blame them too much. But Senator Grassley, who posted the letter publicly, was a powerful man who should have known better.

The campaign to preemptively defend Kavanaugh, however, backfired. After seeing so many people dismiss the allegations, the accuser, who is a professor, went public. Since then, she has been attacked by some conservative websites. One blog, Grabien, scoured for negative reviews. "Something is wrong with her," their headline read, purporting to quote one of her students. Shortly after, the editors issued this retraction, "We apologize for the error, but we've since learned there are two Christine Fords working in clinical psychology in California and we wrote this report about the wrong Christine Ford."

Trump, predictably, is not backing down from defending Kavanaugh. On the contrary, his administration put out a statement saying that he would fight even harder to get his nominee approved. Trump has defended his friends and administration officials every time they are exposed as sexual assault perpetrators, in one case he even endorsed a Republican nominee for the Senate in Alabama, Roy Moore, who had preyed on teenage girls. It's interesting at this point to note that the president himself is facing at least 20 sexual assault allegations. 

The conservative media attacks women for having consensual sexual relations but defends Trump for sexual assault and adultery. During the campaign, Trump allegedly paid $130,000 in hush money to a pornographic actress, Stormy Daniels, with whom he allegedly had an affair. After his election, Daniels went public. One of the most popular prime time cable news pundits on Fox News, Tucker Carlson, now attacks Daniels and her lawyer for supposedly being immoral. 

Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avennati, put it best during an argument with Carlson:

"Why is it that you don't call Donald Trump the creepy porn president? He's the one that had sex with a four-month old son at home with my client without a condom." 

A society that elects an adulterer who commits sexual assault to the presidency, and pushes through the nomination of an alleged sex assault offender, also condemns a woman simply for having consensual sex. This is a flagrant double standard that exists in many countries and systems and must end. Let's hope the Kavanaugh nomination doesn't become yet another manifestation of that double standard.

Mitchell Blatt is a columnist with For more information please visit:

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of

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