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Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
(Warning: Sexual abuse)
About last night.
For a brief moment on Tuesday, women basked in the long-delayed validation that came from a few of them finally being believed about Donald Trump, after a jury of his peers found him liable for sexual abuse, battery and defamation.
E. Jean Carroll, Lisa Birnbach, Jessica Leeds, Natasha Stoynoff and more gave women and girls around this country the long-delayed, but important gift of validation.
Lisa Birnbach told me on Twitter, “It has meant a lot to me that we were believed.”
Part of the judgment against Trump in the Carroll case found “wanton disregard” and that Carroll had proven with clear evidence that Trump displayed “actual malice” in his defamation of her.
Wanton disregard is a legal term expressing an individual's extreme lack of care for the well-being or rights of another individual. “(W)illful and wanton disregard means the ‘deliberate and conscious indifference to the safety of others.’”
That resonates for women around this country, who have known since Trump was elected that they were not believed or deemed worthy of being respected by too many in this country.
But then, on Wednesday evening during the CNN town hall, despite a photo of them together, Trump repeatedly denied knowing Carroll. “I don’t know her. I never met her. I had no idea who she is,” he said. The CNN town hall audience showed the country just who Trump supporters really are as they laughed as he made fun of Carroll’s claim.
Laughing at a sexual battery victim as she is being defamed, yet again. This is who this Trump movement is and CNN knew that going into the town hall. They chose to do it anyway and allow him to broadcast his humiliation of rape and assault victims around this country because the mocking of one is an echo of the mocking done in communities around the country when a victim speaks up.
The CNN town hall harmed women around the country. Again.
Trump also bragged about taking the rights away from women to decide our own destiny and control of our bodies, just like a sexual predator would want to do.
“Getting rid of Roe v. Wade was an incredible thing for pro-life because it gave pro-life something to negotiate with. For 50 years this has been going on… I was very honored to do it,” he said.
Trump was happy to take credit for appointing these Supreme Court justices who then took our freedom from us as sexual predators desire to do, taking away our rights, our dignity, and our control of our destinies.
His lies weren’t fact-checked effectively as he steamrolled CNN’s Kaitlin Collins, who appeared to have been sacrificed by her employer on the Trump altar, or perhaps she willingly let Trump amplify his lies about the 2020 election, January 6th, call a Black police officer a “thug” and more.
The CNN town hall was gasoline on what had been a smoldering fire.
It’s reignited now.
The lies blasted to Trump’s supporters are cult Kool-Aid. People who were put off by him recently got a big dose of the Trump pipe and they won’t be putting it down any time soon. Dear Leader is back, taking up all of the oxygen, giving them the dopamine hits of being “winners” who ride roughshod over everyone else, without a moment of humanity to disrupt the sick pleasure taken in hurting others.
Perhaps we are coming full circle and this is just the dirtiest part of the path, right before it gets cleaned up.
But just one day before this excruciatingly mistaken venture by CNN, Donald Trump was found liable by a jury of nine people for sexually abusing E. Jean Carroll in a Manhattan department store in the 1990s, a case she was able to bring in part through the new New York's Adult Survivors Act.
It took a lot of bravery and fortitude for Carroll to bring her case forward, including the courage of the other witnesses who testified. The Access Hollywood tape was a key player in Carroll’s case, and that very tape is how we began this particular journey that led to women feeling so dehumanized, diminished, and demoralized.
Ever since the Access Hollywood tape didn’t matter following its October 2016 publication, a lot of women knew what Trump did routinely to women and even worse, that it didn’t matter to our fellow citizens.
They had elected a man who bragged about sexual assault and treated the women who came forward to accuse him (26 at this count) of sexual misconduct of varying degrees as if they were trash not even worthy of basic dignity and decency.
No other political candidate for president would have dared to show his inhumanity so brazenly, but as we heard again last night during the CNN town hall, Trump’s audience loves his cruelty. They find it funny. They see themselves and are relieved to not have to hide their worst traits.
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Everything that followed after the Access Hollywood tape was barely a blip in Trump’s journey to the White House proved women’s diminishment. It was clear to women that he had said it in his own words on tape, and yet the populace shrugged.
Once he was elected, his White House claimed his election proved that the American people didn’t consider sexual misconduct allegations to be an issue worthy of discussion. In 2017, after several women came forward on television to share their sexual abuse/assault/harassment experiences with Trump, then WH Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee used his election as proof that the allegations didn’t even warrant consideration. As if some people voting for Trump erased the possibility of his abuse and assault against women mattering at all. Not that it didn’t happen, but that it didn’t matter that it happened.
"The people of this country, at a decisive election, supported President Trump, and we feel like these allegations have been answered through that process.”
The allegations clearly weren’t answered through that process; they were ignored and overridden.
Women who had come forward before his election spoke up again after it, as part of the Me Too wave, and pointed out that it hurt to have their fellow citizens just shrug in response to the their experiences.
Miss USA pageant contestant Samantha Holvey said in 2017: "We're private citizens, and for us to put ourselves out there to try and show America who this man is and especially how he views women, and for them to say 'meh, we don't care' — it hurts. And so now it's just like, all right, let's try round two. The environment's different. Let's try again."
Even now, after 6 men and 3 women found him culpable, Trump supporters - including Republicans in the U.S. House, are saying (paraphrasing here): ‘It didn’t happen. She’s a liar. She lost because she wasn’t able to meet the burden for the definition of rape.’ The latter is a ludicrous claim given his history and his own words.
It’s also disturbing that the definition of rape clearly includes penetration by body parts and yet this jury thought rape hadn’t been established, “The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”
But then, in a civil trial the jury is required to reach a unanimous verdict and so it could have been one person who believed that Trump’s fingers didn’t qualify.
Yet, women apparently have to argue that this actually happened and that it actually matters, because it didn’t matter enough to CNN to even bring it up at the beginning of their town hall, let alone cancel their amplification of Trump’s lies and attacks on democracy.
Whatever went in to making this decision by CNN to amplify a known Gish gallop gaslighter propagandist, it’s done irreparable damage the tenuous agreement of facts upon which democracy rests and it has once again told women: YOU DO NOT MATTER.
Networks will platform and give free ad space to a man found liable of sexual battery and defamation. DEFAMATION, which he repeated during this town hall as everyone knew he would.
Never once in Trump or his camp’s response to sexual misconduct accusations did they ever acknowledge the humanity of the victim. Instead, they chose each and every time to belittle the victim, to make sure she knew she was held in contempt and was useless and worthless, that whatever pain drove her to speak up was a joke and would be weaponize against her.
Even in his own defense, Trump never said he would not rape someone.
Wouldn’t an honorable man say in his defense he’s not the type of man to rape a woman rather than she’s not the type of woman he would rape? But one of Trump’s go-to defenses is to claim that the woman isn’t attractive enough to rape, which suggests that rape is acceptable to him, but that he wouldn’t deem this woman worthy of rape.
Naturally, that too is a lie. In his video taped deposition, Trump confused a photo of E. Jean Carroll from the time period of the assault as being his ex-wife Marla Maples.
He never said he would not rape someone.
In fact, in the deposition, when asked about the Access Hollywood tape in which Trump is heard bragging to Billy Bush, “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything, grab them by the p-ssy. You can do anything,” Trump answered: “Well, historically, that’s true with stars. If you look over the last million years, I guess that’s been largely true. Unfortunately or fortunately.”
Unfortunately or fortunately. Yes, he did say that.
Sexual misconduct, sexual battery, sexual assault is allowed unfortunately or fortunately: So says the presidential front-runner for the Republican ticket for 2024.
Of the women who came forward in E. Jean Carroll’s civil court case and those who came forward publicly after the Access Hollywood tape and again after he was elected, the stories are eerily similar. They actually match exactly what he bragged about on the Access Hollywood tape. He grabs, he forces himself on, he treats women like a piece of “meat,” as one former beauty contestant said of her experience with Trump.
"He would step in front of each girl and look you over from head to toe like we were just meat, we were just sexual objects, that we were not people… the dirtiest I felt in my entire life."
Trump’s first wife Ivana Trump accused him of rape in a 1990s divorce deposition that that was included in a book, only to recant later to say it wasn’t meant as “criminal” rape. In 2015, his lawyer defended this by incorrectly saying: "You cannot rape your spouse."
As if women’s bodies are here for Trump and his ilk to violently use and abuse however they see fit. This is the height of dehumanization, which isn’t a surprise given how these same people treat every other vulnerable political minority.
We are focused today on his treatment of women because of the E. Jean Carroll case and because too often the mainstream media ignores the most important point about sexual abuse: Sexual assault is about power.
It is done by someone who needs to impose power over others, and that is why it is so relevant to the character of a person seeking high office. The crossover between people who sexually assault women and those who are violently racist and bigoted is very high, because it comes from the same psychological pathology. It says, at the very least, this person cannot be trusted with power. They shouldn’t be given power. They will abuse power.
The same day that the jury found for E Jean Carroll, a judge tossed Marilyn Manson’s defamation claim against Evan Rachel Wood but only in a in a tentative ruling.
Another thing that came to light via a PBS documentary is college classmate who HEARD Clarence Thomas say the same gross thing about a Coke can that he denied saying to Anita Hill, one of the first trail blazers of women bravely coming forward to share their experiences about the fitness of a man being considered for tremendous power.
“Remember that lewd line about the Coke can that Clarence Thomas denied under oath saying to Anita Hill? Watch his college classmate describe how he heard Thomas say it too- on FRONTLINE,” Jane Mayer shared above the PBS link.
Clarence Thomas’ sexual harassment being ignored as not relevant or not even true paved the way for Brett Kavanaugh, who has been credibly accused by several women of sexual misconduct and from the stories told, it seems like gang rape/assault was on the menu. This man, along with Clarence Thomas, took women’s right to live away from them when they overturned Roe V Wade.
It was predictable that they would do so, because again, men who sexually abuse women do it for the control and power. Removing the agency of women to determine their own futures and to have basic control over their bodies is exactly what those kinds of men want.
It’s also important to point out that most men do not sexually abuse women. For every man who claims this is normal and who is saying, even today, this is “locker room talk,” there are many more men who have never behaved this way toward a woman or young girl. It’s a mistake for men to identify with sexual predators thinking that they, too, could be accused when actually, it has taken numerous women coming forward against each of these men to even make news. Not one of these women has destroyed these men’s lives, these men are all still in positions of outrageous power, even today.
If a person is defending Trump, Clarence Thomas, or Brett Kavanaugh, it should serve as a warning of what kind of person they are. Most men do not act this way, but too many men excuse it by identifying with it on the surface, because they do not understand the ugliness and violence behind these actions. These are not casual hugged-you-too-long or complimented-a-woman-gone-wrong moments. These are moments of calculated, cruel and harmful violence and humiliation perpetrated upon people with less power.
If you think about the patriarchy as a system of hierarchy of power, the only people who are going to remain unscathed by it are wealthy, white, straight, men among the most elite in terms of access, money, power, and networks.
It’s as if the battle for human dignity is being waged on a micro level with these wins and then boom, the powerful force of patriarchy sweeps in to try to destroy all progress, with plenty of people egging it on. It is those people who are the most terrifying, because as we discussed in one of my first podcasts, Hitler came to power democratically. He convinced people to put him in power, he didn’t start off taking power.
As video proof of how the wanton disregard trickles down, here's a clip shared by Jess Piper on Twitter of a woman waiting to get her breakfast in Missouri, overhearing a group of people laughing at the E. Jean Carroll case and saying that Trump said: “Well, I didn’t know her all I done was rape her” to much laughter. The response was, “At least he’s honest.”
So this is what Trump supporters mean when praise Trump for being “honest.” They like that he has no shame about abusing and violating other people.
The E. Jean Carroll case is but one of many cases Trump might face in the near future. Trump is currently a criminal defendant facing 34 felony criminal charges of falsifying business records in Manhattan. Special counsel Jack Smith is investigating the Trump-incited January 6th attack on the US Capitol as well as in a separate case, Trump’s theft of highly classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago. Then in Georgia, the investigation into the Trump campaign’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election is ongoing with possible charges coming this summer.
So it’s not as if CNN didn’t know who this man was and what he would bring to the table.
It’s also not as if Trump is some gross uncle, though he has been described as a gross uncle by many women who have alleged sexual misconduct against him. What he really is, though, is a master propagandist. This is a man who will use any opportunity given to him to gaslight the nation and feed his dangerously resentful base a pre-mixed Kool-Aid cocktail of Lies. It works.
Last night, CNN broadcasted Trump’s deliberate and conscious indifference to the safety of others. E. Jean Carroll’s safety, other witnesses’ safety, and victims who choose to speak up around the country are now faced with living among the people he reignited with his lies. And the safety of our democracy, ever so tenuous before last night, is now back in the crosshairs with incoming fire from all sides.
The important takeaway from all of this toxicity is to support independent news like PoliticusUSA and The Daily substack because billionaires and trust fund boys are banding together to turn the media landscape into a megaphone for fascist propaganda like we saw last night on CNN. Elon Musk is bringing Tucker Carlson on to Twitter to do his show, which even Fox News canceled due to its dangerous lies.
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This is a great day to sign up to volunteer for the upcoming elections.