During the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump faced allegations of sexual misconduct from 19 women ranging from walking through dressing rooms to kissing and touching them inappropriately.
He responded with six basic arguments: He is a good person, his accusers were lying, the allegations were untrue, the claims were politically motivated, the process was unfair and he was the real victim.
Trump has used a similar playbook to respond to allegations from women against a number of other men, including Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly from Fox News, former White House staffer Rob Porter and Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore.
After California professor Christine Blasey Ford came forward with a claim that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh attempted to sexually assault her as a teenager, holding her down and putting his hand over her mouth while attempting to remove her clothing, Trump and other supporters have defended him using similar arguments.
Here’s a closer look.
Step 1: The accused is a good man
Trump often defends his friends against allegations of sexual harassment or sexual misconduct by vouching for them personally.
When the New York Times reported that Fox News had paid $13 million to five women who accused host Bill O’Reilly of sexual harassment over the years, Trump defended him. “I think he’s a person I know well,” Trump said in an interview. “He’s a good person.”
He used the same wording to defend Ailes when the Fox News chief was accused of sexually harassing at least two dozen women.
“It’s very sad because he’s a very good person,” Trump said. “I’ve always found him to be just a very, very good person. And, by the way, a very, very talented person. Look what he’s done. So I feel very badly.”
On Tuesday, he used similar language to praise Kavanaugh.
“He’s an incredible individual, great intellect, great judge, impeccable history in every way — in every way,” he said.
He repeated that praise on Wednesday, calling him a “great gentleman.”
“I would say this: I think he’s an extraordinary man,” he said. “I think he’s a man of great intellect, as I’ve been telling you, and he has an unblemished record.”
Step 2: The accuser’s story is untrue
Trump defended himself against accusations of sexual misconduct by repeatedly calling the women making the allegations liars.
“Total fabrication. The events never happened. Never. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over,” he said at a campaign stop in Pennsylvania in October of 2016. Those lawsuits never came, and, in fact, he’s facing a defamation lawsuit from one of his accusers.
Trump also cast suspicion on the women who accused Ailes.
“I can tell you that some of the women that are complaining, I know how much he’s helped them, and even recently. And when they write books that are fairly recently released, and they say wonderful things about him,” he said. “And now, all of a sudden, they’re saying these horrible things about him.”
And he said that he didn’t believe the accusations against O’Reilly.
“I think he shouldn’t have settled; personally I think he shouldn’t have settled. Because you should have taken it all the way. I don’t think Bill did anything wrong,” he said.
In Kavanaugh’s case, the White House and Republicans on Capitol Hill have been more careful with their wording, but the implications of their statements are pretty clear that they believe Blasey Ford’s account is untrue.
Kavanaugh’s official statement on the allegation, released by the White House, was clear-cut, leaving little room for an incident that might have been viewed differently by its participants.
“I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation,” he said. “I did not do this back in high school or at any time.”
A Kavanaugh friend who Blasey Ford said was in the room during the alleged assault also categorically said it did not happen. “It’s just absolutely nuts. I never saw Brett act that way,” he told the Weekly Standard.
On Wednesday, Trump said he had a hard time believing Blasey Ford’s story, saying he would like her to testify under oath before the Senate.
“Look, if she shows up and makes a credible showing, that will be very interesting and we’ll have to make a decision,” he said. “But I can only say this: He is such an outstanding man. Very hard for me to imagine that anything happened.”
In an interview with The Hill, Trump went further, comparing Blasey Ford’s accusation to Democrats’ concerns about Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
“This is no different than the Russian witch hunt, what they’ve done … is they make up a lot of stuff and try and obstruct and resist,” he said.
Step 3: The accusations are politically motivated
When defending himself, Trump often argued that the allegations of sexual misconduct were suspiciously timed and possibly even fabricated by his opponents to hurt him.
During that Pennsylvania campaign stop, Trump vowed to sue Democrats, arguing that they put the women up to it.
“Every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign,” he said, adding later, “it was probably the DNC and the Clinton campaign that put forward these liars with their fabricated stories.”
At another event in October, Trump argued that news outlets were working with Democrats to put forward the allegations to damage his campaign.
“These people are horrible people. They’re horrible, horrible liars,” he said. “And interestingly, it happens to appear 26 days before our very important election, isn’t that amazing?”
Trump has been more cautious with his statements on Kavanaugh, but he’s still argued that Democrats waited to make Blasey Ford’s accusation public for political reasons. (California Sen. Dianne Feinstein said she did not make the accusation public earlier because Blasey Ford had requested privacy.)
“This should have been brought to the fore — it should have been brought up long ago and that’s what you have hearings for. You don’t wait until the hearing is over and then all of a sudden bring it up,” he said Tuesday.
Step 4: The accused denies it
Apart from his own denials, Trump has also repeatedly noted the denials by other men accused of misconduct.
When Porter faced allegations of physical and emotional abuse from both of his ex-wives, Trump highlighted his denial.
“He also, as you probably know, says he’s innocent and I think you have to remember that,” Trump said. “He said very strongly yesterday that he’s innocent so you have to talk to him about that.”
He said virtually the same thing when Moore faced accusations during the Alabama Senate race from nine women that he sexually pursued them as teens or, in some cases, touched them inappropriately.
“If you look at what is really going on and you look at all the things that have happened over the last 48 hours, he totally denies it,” Trump said. “He says it didn’t happen. And you know, you have to listen to him also.”
In Kavanaugh’s case, the White House has repeatedly pointed to that denial in its official statements.
“On Friday, Judge Kavanaugh ‘categorically and unequivocally’ denied this allegation. This has not changed. Judge Kavanaugh and the White House both stand by that statement,” White House spokesperson Kerri Kupec said in a statement.
Step 5: The process is unfair
Trump’s campaign argument also centered on a claim, made without evidence, that sexual misconduct allegations are not vetted in any way by the media.
“A simple phone call placed to the biggest newspapers or television networks gets them wall-to-wall coverage with virtually no fact checking whatsoever,” he said.
At another rally, he argued, without evidence, that the news outlets don’t do basic reporting.
“These lies come from outlets whose past stories and past claims have already been discredited,” he said. “The media outlets did not even attempt to confirm the most basic facts because even a simple investigation would have shown that these were nothing more than false smears.”
After White House aide Rob Porter faced allegations of physical and emotional abuse from both of his ex-wives, including photographic evidence, Trump tweeted out a general complaint about how these kinds of claims are handled.
“Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation,” he wrote. “There is no recovery for someone falsely accused – life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”
He’s echoed that criticism in the Kavanaugh case, which rests not just on Blasey Ford’s allegations, but also accounts from her husband and notes from a therapist.
“They’re hurting somebody’s life very badly, and it’s very unfair, I think, to — as you know, Justice Kavanaugh has been treated very, very tough — and his family. I think it’s a very unfair thing, what’s going on,” he said.
Step 6: The accused is the real victim
During the campaign, Trump recast the accusations against him as an attack that he was suffering, and encouraged his supporters to empathize with him by seeing it as an attack on them. too. He rarely empathizes with the accusers, however.
“If they can fight somebody like me who has unlimited resources to fight back, just look at what they can do to you, your jobs, your security, your education, your health care, the violation of religious liberty, the theft of your Second Amendment, the loss of your factories, your homes and much more,” he said.
He said that the allegations were hurting him and his family.
“I will not lie to you. These false attacks hurt. To be lied about, to be slandered, to be smeared so publicly and before your family, is painful,” he said.
Trump has made a similar argument about Kavanaugh, while saying nothing about personal attacks that Blasey Ford has faced since coming forward.
“I feel so badly for him that he’s going through this to be honest with you. I feel so badly for him,” he said Tuesday. “This is not a man that deserves this.” Later he added: “Honestly I feel terribly for him, for his wife, who is an incredible lovely woman, and for his beautiful young daughters. I feel terribly for them.”
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