Beyond simply ignoring or sidestepping questions about Trump’s Twitter actions, his communications staff, like Sarah Huckabee Sanders and First Lady Melania Trump, are endorsing it.
On Thursday morning, President Trump sent out a series of tweets directed at two of the co-anchors of Morning Joe, the MSNBC morning show, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. In the tweets, he accused the “poorly rated” show of talking badly about him and coming to Mar-a-Lago, his Palm Beach golf club. In the last tweet, he made a particularly low attack towards Brzezinski, saying that she was “bleeding badly from a face-lift.”
The comment struck a chord with Democrats and Republicans alike, with several Republicans calling the comment beneath the dignity of the presidential office. Trump disparaged both, calling Scarborough “Pyscho Joe” and Brzezinski “Low I.Q. Crazy Mika” but only went after Brzezinski’s appearance.
This is not atypical for Trump; he came under fire for comments he made about the presidential debate moderator and former FOX News host Megyn Kelly. On Don Lemon’s show, Trump said, “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes; blood coming out of her wherever.”
Trump’s rhetoric towards women extends beyond low blows at their actions and directly into ad hominem attacks. While Scarborough was “Psycho,” Brzezinki was “Crazy” and “Low I.Q.” Crazy is a word used almost exclusively towards women, meant to demean and discredit them. Crazy is used to make women feel small and make them seem untrustworthy. Its synonym, hysterical, comes from hysteros, the Ancient Greek word for “uterus.”
A Washington Post article addressed much the same: ““Crazy” is such a convenient word for men, perpetuating our sense of superiority. Men are logical; women are emotional. Emotion is the antithesis of logic. When women are too emotional, we say they are being irrational. Crazy. Wrong.”
The article goes on to say that men, particularly abusive men, applied the word “crazy” to their female victims, because to immediately discredit them would stop anyone from believing them. This is an extreme example, but calling women crazy prevents people, particularly men, from taking them, or their concerns or questions or contributions, seriously.
So while Scarborough is just “psycho,” a word with no particularly damaging social connotation, Brzezinski is “crazy,” a term meant specifically to damage and discredit a woman.
Brzezinski was also the one to get a personal, physical-based attack from Trump. “She was bleeding badly from a face-lift,” he said. Firstly, there is photographic evidence that expressly proves him wrong. But even if there weren’t, or even if she was, his specific targeting of her belies his own misogyny and anxiety about women.
Earlier in the week, he leered at an Irish reporter, complimenting her on her smile. This compliment is the other end of his comments towards Brzezinski, but it’s the coin. Trump is, in his mind, the ultimate arbiter of a woman’s sexuality and physical appearance. It’s the same reason he bought the Miss Universe pageant. He wanted to be in control of how women were perceived as beautiful. He wanted to be the one to decide whether or not they had beauty, and, whether or not they had worth.
In the infamous Access Hollywood “grab her by the pussy” tapes, he mocked a woman for not receiving his advances because she was married. He disparaged her appearance.
For twenty years, since 1997, Trump has criticized and made fun of Miss Universe 1996 Alicia Machado, for “gaining weight.” He brought reporters and cameramen to film her at the gym. He called her “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping.” Her gaining weight was the ultimate betrayal for him, because it deviated from the standard of beauty he was trying to impose upon her.
President Trump bases women’s power and worth on their attractiveness to him. So the worst insult he could think of, because of the paradigm he operates within, was physicality-based. Because to him, physical attractiveness in a woman is her ultimate worth. So he attacked Brzezinski’s appearance. He tried to cut her down.
This is nothing new. What is new, relatively, are the reactions from his staff and inner circle. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a spokesperson for President Trump, said that there was nothing wrong with the tweets. He was responding to the “outrageous” attacks from the MSNBC show, she said. “This is a president who fights fire with fire.”
First Lady Melania Trump’s communications director Stephanie Grisham, put out this statement: “As the First Lady has stated publicly in the past, when her husband gets attacked, he will punch back 10 times harder.”
This has gone beyond side-stepping or changing the subject. His staff and surrounding people are actively endorsing his tweets. That the appropriate way to respond to criticism is to attack lower and harder. But the problem is that this is not a spat between two rival celebrities or talk-show hosts or people. This is the president of the United States attacking a reporter’s appearance. There will never be an equal playing field, because he will always have the upper hand.
It’s nothing new, but this bears repeating: This is the highest office in our country. This is unprecedented. This is not normal. This is a man with boundless power, a man so terrified of women that he must attack them without a second thought, a man who will stop at nothing to protect himself.
Donald Trump is afraid of women, so he attacks them. He believes they are only useful for being beautiful, so he goes after their appearance. And if he can’t get her by attacking her appearance, he goes after her in other ways. He calls her “crazy.” He sees no other way but his way. And every person who does not outright deny and reject his language endorses it as acceptable.