Corey Lewandowski, former campaign manager for U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, arrives at Trump Tower in New York, U.S., on Monday, Nov. 28, 2016. Trump is considering retired General David Petraeus to be secretary of state and plans to meet with the former CIA director Monday in New York, according to a senior official with the transition. Photographer: Anthony Behar/Pool via Bloomberg
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images
June 9, 2017 1:59 PM EDT

Corey Lewandowski, the former campaign manager to President Donald Trump, perpetuated a problematic stereotype about masculinity while discussing James Comey’s Congressional testimony.

During his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday, Comey said he authorized a friend to leak a memo to the New York Times detailing a conversation where President Trump allegedly asked him to end the FBI’s investigation into his then-national security advisor Michael Flynn’s interactions with Russia. Comey said he didn’t do it himself because he was worried about it causing a media frenzy.

But, during an interview on the Today Show on Friday, Lewandowski said that Comey simply wasn’t masculine enough to do it himself. “He gave his notes to a Columbia Law Professor because he wasn’t man enough to give his notes directly to the media because he wanted them out to the media,” Lewandowski said.

It’s not the first time the Trump circle has perpetuated the stereotype of masculinity — the idea that “real men” are tough, aggressive and dominant. During the Republican primary, Trump gave his male opponents nicknames to suggest that they were weak, including “Little Marco” or “Low Energy Jeb.” He continued that pattern against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. He said she didn’t have “the stamina” to be president and that she got “schlonged” in the 2008 Democratic Primary. After the release of a 2005 tape that showed Trump boasting about grabbing a woman by the “p—” without her consent, Trump characterized his comments as “locker room talk,” as if it’s normal for manly men to speak that way in private.

Lewandowski was charged with misdemeanor battery in March for allegedly grabbing reporter Michelle Fields. Lewandowski and Trump denied Fields’ allegations. Lewandowski called Fields “delusional” even as a video corroborated her account. The charges against Lewandowski were dropped in April. Lewandowski was fired from the Trump campaign in June but has continued to serve as surrogate for Trump.

Research has shown that this type of talk is bad for both men and women. A 2015 study from Stanford found that men overcompensate by embracing traditional male attributes, including aggressiveness and boasting about their number of female sexual partners, when others question their masculinity. Another 2015 study found that men who are made to feel “less manly” are more likely to commit violent assaults. A 2012 study found that men who felt their masculinity threatened were more likely to blame the victim and exonerate the perpetrator in cases of date rape and sexual assault. Men are less likely than women to seek help for mental health issues, which have been stigmatized as a sign of a weakness. Men are also more likely to commit suicide, a statistic that some researchers have linked to the pressure on men to conform to gender norms.

Many have said it’s time to retire gendered insults like “man up” or “don’t be a p—” to work toward getting rid of social stereotypes that dictate that there’s a right way to be a man or a woman. But it seems Lewandowski didn’t get the memo.

 

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Write to Samantha Cooney at samantha.cooney@time.com.

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