Trump used his Twitter account on Saturday morning to broadcast his support for alleged abusers and cast doubt on the veracity of their accusers, once again demonstrating his willingness to defend the indefensible.
But as he expressed his sympathy for accused perpetrators of domestic violence, the American folks had their own message for Trump: You don’t speak for us.
From journalists and politicians to activists and everyday Americans, people took to social media to stand up to Trump and speak out against his poor behavior.
The backlash had been building all week, as more details were revealed about the administration’s failure to act upon discovering that then-White House aide Rob Porter had been accused of domestic abuse by two ex-wives and one ex-girlfriend. The allegations, which ranged from choking to punching in the face to shaking violently, were accompanied by a big amount of evidence, including a photograph of one of Porter’s ex-wives with a black eye that he gave her in one of his violent episodes.
Despite the fact that the FBI had not approved Porter’s security clearance due to those allegations, the White House invited him in to work in the Oval Office and reportedly even let him review classified material. It was only when the allegations became public that the White House even acknowledged the issue.
But even after Porter resigned this week, Trump continued to defend, praise, and express his support for the abuser.
“He says he’s innocent, and I think you have to remember that. He said very strongly yesterday that he’s innocent, so you’ll have to talk to him about that,” Trump said of Porter on Friday. “It’s obviously a tough time for him, 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.”
On Saturday, Trump doubled down on his defense of accused abusers, lamenting that their lives were “shattered and destroyed” but not making any mention about the trauma on the lives of the women who allegedly endured their abuse.
Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused – life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 10, 2018
Trump’s statements drew a swift backlash from all corners of social media.
“What an incredibly tone deaf, self-serving statement to make at a time when #MeToo has exposed so many powerful men for their abuse of women & finally given voice to the thousands of female victims who endured it,” wrote CNN political commentator and Stand Up Republic board member Tara Setmayer. “Shame on Trump.”
CNN’s Jake Tapper pushed back with a fact-check, highlighting the evidence that Trump ignored:
In point of fact, 2 ex-wives talking on the record to journalists and to the FBI and one ex-girlfriend on background, with a photo of a black eye and a police report, is not “a mere allegation.” https://t.co/yummWOW4qZ
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) February 10, 2018
Echoing Tapper’s sentiment, David Martosko, an editor for the Daily Mail — the publication that first reported on the allegations of abuse from Porter’s ex-wives — quoted Trump’s tweet from Saturday morning and sarcastically remarked out what Trump failed to mention:
I think he misspelled "restraining order and photos of a black eye" https://t.co/zHgSGT0XNO
— David Martosko (@dmartosko) February 10, 2018
Steve Chapman, a member of the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board, wrote in an editorial that the entire incident “confirms Trump’s incompetence.”
Meanwhile, former New Jersey Gov. Christie Whitman pointed out that Trump’s defense of accused abusers — and his lack of empathy for victims — is part of a broader pattern of behavior.
“The fact that [Trump] praised Porter and said not a word about his abusive behavior or his former wives is typical of the WH attitude toward women and abuse,” Whitman tweeted. “Our children must learn a different lesson.”
Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, summed up the sentiment that so many American women are clearly feeling, warning Trump that he would see it, too — on election day:
Donald Trump may be sad, but American women are MAD. You have no idea how mad. But you’ll see in 269 days. https://t.co/TzpTxeWMPa
— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) February 9, 2018
One of the most powerful responses came from Dan Rather, who wrote in a Facebook post that Trump’s disgraceful behavior “proves he is indifferent to the fate of anyone other than himself”:
[T]he incredible cocoon of privilege and ego with which the President envelopes himself blinds him to the sheer horror of his statements in defense of Mr. Porter. He rails against the injustice of these “accusations” (this from a man who accused President Obama of being a foreigner). He talks about how “Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation” but says nothing about the WOMEN victims. What about the lives of these women? Have they not been “shattered and destroyed”? And what about the lives of all of the women (and men) suffering in domestic violence situations?
Mr. Trump once again proves he is indifferent to the fate of anyone other than himself. This is a low for this country that is nothing about politics. We can debate tax cuts and immigration policy and how we fund education. We can disagree about the size of our military or the best balance for protecting the environment. That is a democracy.
Debating whether credibly accused wife beaters should be allowed the honor (and that is what it is) to serve in the White House isn’t a democracy. It’s madness – and a moment of sadness for the country.
Trump’s comments come amid a culture shift in American society, with movements like #MeToo, #TimesUp, and #BelieveWomen sweeping across the nation and opening people’s eyes to the injustices suffered by victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Trump, however, is apparently too concerned with shielding himself from his own history of sexual assault accusations to notice, or to care.
That’s why people are standing up and speaking out — and although Trump has the bully pulpit, Americans showed today that they have the stage.
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