Sexual assault greatly impacts politics

By Paul Mulholland

Those most disgusted by Trump’s comments about women in a tape that surfaced on Friday, Oct. 7, are those who never really liked him in the first place. On the other hand, the people who emphasize Bill Clinton’s alleged sexual assaults are likely to believe that Hillary Clinton should be in prison.

Hostility toward the candidate almost invariably comes before the inclination to see him as a sexual predator. Two standards, one that people are innocent until proven guilty, and the second that accusers should receive the benefit of the doubt, are applied on the basis of political opportunism, not any decent or consistent theory of justice. Admittedly, this logic cuts against me, as well, as I despise both men and am convinced they are both sexual predators.

The two most damaging claims against Bill Clinton came from Juanita Broaddrick, a nurse who said he raped her in a hotel room in 1978 while he was campaigning for governor of Arkansas. There was also Kathleen Willey, who said Bill Clinton groped her in the Oval Office in 1993 after she asked him for a full-time job. Both women had formerly been volunteers and loyal supporters of Bill Clinton. Both of their stories have been corroborated by several of their friends.

When both Willey’s and Broaddrick’s claims became public in 1998 and 1999, respectively, they did not receive the support from famous feminists and Democrats that Anita Hill received in 1991 when she accused then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of repeatedly asking her on dates and discussing pornography, including bestiality, with her. Willey first came forward in an interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes” on March 15, 1998, and claimed that Bill Clinton had forcibly kissed her, touched her breast and placed her hand on his genitals.

Bill Clinton’s scandals might impact the election. (AP Photo)
Bill Clinton’s scandals might impact the election. (AP Photo)

One week later, well-known feminist Gloria Steinem, who visited the College last semester, published an op-ed in The New York Times titled “Feminists and the Clinton Question.”  

“The truth is that even if the allegations are true, the President is not guilty of sexual harassment,” Steinem wrote. “He is accused of having made a gross, dumb and reckless pass at a supporter during a low point in her life.”

“Even if the allegations are true. Steinem entertains the hypothetical that if Willey’s claim were to be 100 percent true, it was simply a breach of taste, not sexual assault. In the same article, Steinem also claimed that there was an important difference between the accusations made against Clinton and those against Justice Thomas because Clinton only groped Willey once, but Thomas harassed Hill repeatedly.

No, the important difference is that Clinton was a pro-choice Democrat and Thomas a pro-life Republican.

The resurfacing of Bill Clinton’s sexual assault allegations have also made life more difficult for Hillary. On Sept. 14, 2015, at a town hall in Cedar Falls, Iowa, discouraged by millennial women supporting Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont over her in the polls, Hillary Clinton spoke to sexual assault survivors.

“I want to send a message to every survivor of sexual assault…You have a right to be heard. You have a right to be believed, and we’re with you,” Hillary Clinton said. A similar message surfaced on her campaign website later that week, only to be taken down on Jan. 29, 2016. Earlier that month Broaddrick began tweeting about what happened in 1978.

The boldest of these tweets from Jan. 6, 2016, is still, as of today, her pinned tweet.

“I was 35 years old when Bill Clinton, Ark. Attorney General, raped me and Hillary tried to silence me, I am now 75… It never goes away.”

Maintaining her previous stance became harder and harder as she was asked at town halls leading up to New Hampshire and Iowa that winter about Broaddrick’s claims. Her adopted standard, that the burden of proof is on the one accused, was convenient when it was adopted, and when it stopped being convenient, she dropped it.

So far, Politico has published the most comprehensive list of Trump’s alleged sexual assault victims. He is accused by at least 10 women of sexual assault, the most corroborated of which is that of Natasha Stoynoff, a reporter from People magazine. She said that during an interview about his recent marriage to Melania Trump, Trump pinned her against a wall and forcibly kissed her.

This is not at all different from what he claimed to do in his leaked interview with Billy Bush: “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.” The theme of unwelcome kissing is common to all those who have accused Trump so far, and most of these women have never met each other.

The Trump campaign constantly defends his crude remarks. (AP Photo)
The Trump campaign constantly defends his crude remarks. (AP Photo)

Trump’s opportunism on sexual assault is so blatant, it’s possible he doesn’t even realize he is doing it. Remember: He began his campaign by accusing Mexican immigrants of being rapists, with far less evidence than that levied against him. It is distinctly possible that he wants to keep rapists out of the country to avoid the competition.

Trump is not the only white nationalist peddling rape myths to encourage ethnic bigotry. When asked at a town hall in Bridgton, Maine, this January about heroin addiction in his state, Gov. Paul Lepage of Maine, a Trump supporter, claimed that drug dealers with names like, “D-money, Smoothie and Shifty” come to the state and “Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young white girl before they leave.”

Anne Coulter, a white nationalist author and Trump supporter, actually wrote a book called “Adios America!: The Left’s Plan to Turn Our Country into a Third World Hellhole,” which is almost exclusively about rapes committed by Mexican immigrants. Trump claimed to have read it from cover to cover.

“A 16-year-old girl at her homecoming dance was gang-raped and left for dead because the Democrats need more voters,” Coulter wrote. “We could save a lot of soul-searching about ‘our’ violent culture if journalists didn’t hide the fact that gang rapes are generally committed by people who are not from our culture.”

There are also several Twitter accounts, such as that of former KKK Imperial Wizard David Duke and one called “Rapefugees,” that argue Syrian refugees and others should not be allowed into the U.S. because they will rape white women. Have Duke, Coulter or LePage denounced Trump’s actions or words yet? Of course they haven’t. But why would they condemn whole ethnic groups without evidence, and refrain from the same with Trump despite the evidence?

Because they hate one and love the other.

I am not endorsing one standard or candidate over the other. It’s only that the integrity of accusers and the reputation of those accused should be taken more seriously than this. Find a standard that can be defended and apply it all the time, not when it suits your political prejudices.