Column: Why would a rape survivor endorse Donald Trump?

A woman with long brown hair with glasses pushed up on top of her head
Rep. Nancy Mace outside the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 29.
(Tom Williams / Getty Images)

Before getting his head bitten off by Republican U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace on Sunday, ABC News “This Week” host George Stephanopoulos had asked her a perfectly reasonable question.

Why, as a rape survivor, he wondered, would you support someone for president who sexually abuses women?

Opinion Columnist

Robin Abcarian

Stephanopoulos had just played a 2019 clip of Mace, then a member of the South Carolina Legislature, speaking emotionally about having been raped at 16, how ashamed she had been and how long it took her to come forward because she was scared no one would believe her. She was asking state lawmakers, in the most personal way, to carve an exception for rape and incest into a draconian anti-abortion bill, which they did.


Describing Mace’s testimony as “candid and courageous,” Stephanopoulos asked why, given that history, she would support former President Trump.

“Judges and two separate juries have found him liable for rape and for defaming the victim of that rape,” Stephanopoulos said. “How do you square that endorsement of Donald Trump with the testimony we just saw?”

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That circle can only be squared on Planet MAGA, where nothing the former president has ever done is considered disqualifying. In the surreal exchange that followed, Mace repeatedly accused Stephanopoulos of trying to shame her as a rape victim, and declared that his very question would make it more difficult for rape survivors to come forward.

“I live with shame, and you’re asking me a question about my political choices trying to shame me as a rape victim,” said Mace, “and I find it disgusting.”

“It’s not about shaming you,” Stephanopoulos replied. “It’s a question about Donald Trump.”

How I hate to write this, but I don’t think I have ever seen a woman invoke the rape card like this. So disingenuous. So damaging.


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And before you start yelling about how Trump was not technically found guilty of having raped E. Jean Carroll, it’s important to remember that even the judge in that case said that what Trump did to Carroll all those years ago in a Bergdorf dressing room was, indeed, rape.

“The finding that Ms. Carroll failed to prove that she was ‘raped’ within the meaning of the New York Penal Law does not mean that she failed to prove that Mr. Trump ‘raped’ her as many people commonly understand the word ‘rape,’ ” U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan wrote. “Indeed, as the evidence at trial recounted below makes clear, the jury found that Mr. Trump in fact did exactly that.”

Not content to accuse Stephanopoulos of trying to shame her, Mace also accused Carroll of trivializing sexual assault by making a small joke about how she might spend the $83 million she was awarded by the juries in her two defamation cases.

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“And quite frankly, E. Jean Carroll’s comments, when she did get the judgment, joking about what she was gonna buy?” said Mace. “It makes it harder for women to come forward when they make a mockery out of rape.”

I’m just guessing here, but I think news that a victim’s attacker has to pay her millions of dollars in damages for saying she lied about it might inspire others to come forward. Maybe even in droves.

Anyway, what Carroll said hardly trivialized rape: “I’d like to give the money to something Donald Trump hates,” Carroll said on “Good Morning America” in January. “If it will cause him pain for me to give money to certain things, that’s my intent. Well, perhaps a fund for the women who have been sexually assaulted by Donald Trump.”


On Sunday, to her credit, Carroll refused to tangle with Mace, instead posting on X that she wished Mace well.

“And,” Carroll added, “I salute all survivors for their strength, endurance, and holding on to their sanity.”

That was a neat trick Mace tried to pull off — trying to shame Carroll while declaring herself to be the real shaming victim.

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Mace is not the only high-profile Republican lawmaker to disingenuously invoke rape to support Trump.

Last week, Alabama Sen. Katie Britt’s much maligned response to President Biden’s State of the Union speech raised rape in a totally bizarre way. Britt, whose histrionic presentation instantly became fodder for “Saturday Night Live,” implied that Biden’s border policies were to blame for the sex trafficking of a Mexican woman who, as it happens, was actually exploited in Mexico during the George W. Bush administration.

“The cartels put her on a mattress in a shoe box of a room, and they sent men through that door over and over again for hours and hours on end,” Britt said, her voice trembling with emotion. “We wouldn’t be OK with this happening in a Third World country. This is the United States of America, and it is past time, in my opinion, that we start acting like it. President Biden’s border policies are a disgrace.”


I doubt Britt believed what she was saying, just as I doubt Mace really believed that Stephanopoulos was trying to shame her. This is political theater at its worst

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In Mace’s case, trying to turn the tables on Stephanopoulos was a convenient way of deflecting her obvious hypocrisy, and the hypocrisy of all the family-values-professing types who embrace the reelection of the twice-impeached former president who is still facing 91 felony counts for a wide variety of crimes, and who has bragged — please, let’s not forget — that he can grab women by the genitals with impunity.

Like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and countless other Republicans, Mace once condemned Trump, blamed him for the insurrection and declared he was unfit for office.

Her change of heart came about, she told Stephanopoulos, because “I listened to my voters in South Carolina, and they have moved beyond Jan. 6.”

But she never explained why, as an outspoken advocate for survivors of rape, she supports a man judged to be guilty of that very misdeed.

That, I would suggest, is because she can’t. Her only defense, as she demonstrated last week, is a nonsensical offense.