Trump faces a #MeToo moment
President Trump was pulled back into the national debate over sexual harassment this week after three women who accused him during the 2016 campaign of groping or forcibly kissing them renewed their allegations, leading New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and other Democrats to call for the president’s resignation. The three women, among more than a dozen to accuse Trump of sexual harassment and assault during his real estate and reality-TV career, told their stories again on Megyn Kelly’s NBC show and at a joint news conference, where they asked Congress to investigate Trump’s alleged misconduct. One accuser, Jessica Leeds, said Trump had tried to put his hand up her skirt during a flight to New York some three decades ago. Another, former Miss USA contestant Samantha Holvey, said it was “heartbreaking” to watch Trump’s electoral victory last year. “Now it’s just like, ‘Alright, let’s try round two.’ The environment’s different.”
Gillibrand said the allegations were “very credible” and demanded Trump resign. The president struck back with tweets dismissing the women as fabricators and Gillibrand as a “lightweight.” He claimed the senator “would come to my office ‘begging’ for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them).” Gillibrand and other Democrats said Trump’s comment was laden with sexual innuendo and denounced it as a “sexist smear.” The White House rebuffed the criticism as well as calls for a congressional investigation, saying the accusations had already been litigated in Trump’s favor “in a decisive election.”
What the columnists said
The #MeToo movement is coming for Trump, said Michelle Cottle in TheAtlantic.com. Unsurprisingly, the president has responded with his characteristic sexism, insinuating that Gillibrand is “an actual prostitute.” Trump also retreated further into his own spin, claiming he has never met his accusers despite video and photographic evidence proving otherwise. That duplicity makes this moment “both fascinating and terrifying. Just how much of a reality distortion field can Trump maintain?”
Forgive me for detecting a touch of political cynicism in Gillibrand’s campaign, said Harmeet Dhillon in DailyCaller.com. For years, she was “happy to benefit from her symbiotic relationship with the Clintons,” despite numerous sexual accusations against Bill. But with a 2020 presidential bid on her mind, Gillibrand has suddenly changed her tune—attacking former President Clinton, fellow Democratic Sen. Al Franken, and Trump for their alleged misbehavior.
The president, for his part, believes that his 2016 victory “exonerates” him, said Robert Schlesinger in USNews.com. Hardly. “The American people did not support Trump’s election”: He got 46 percent of the popular vote, 2 points less than Hillary Clinton. And even if Trump could claim a “popular mandate,” he can’t be “suggesting that an election inoculates him against new developments or new evidence?” A congressional investigation is the only way to resolve this issue, said Matthew Yglesias in Vox.com. Surely the president would agree? After all, if he is as innocent as he insists, “a proper investigation would give Trump a chance to clear his name.”