A brief history of the Trump campaign’s controversies with women

A recent Pew Research Center report found that Donald Trump is favored by only 35% of female voters.
(Tom Pennington / Getty Images )

Donald Trump’s 2005 lewd and predatory comments about women, uncovered Friday with the release of old “Access Hollywood” video, was the latest instance of questionable treatment of women by Trump since he began running for president in June 2015.

Trump in turn is historically unpopular with female voters. A recent Pew Research Center report found that he polled at 35% support among women.

Here’s a timeline of controversies regarding women since the launch of Trump’s campaign.

July 2015

Trump lawyer says there is no such thing as marital rape

The month after Trump announced his run for president, a deposition from his divorce from his first wife, Ivana, surfaced. In it, she used the word “rape” to describe an encounter with Trump in 1989, while they were married.

Michael Cohen, special counsel at the Trump Organization, defended Trump by incorrectly asserting that, in legal terms, a man cannot be found to have raped his spouse. 

“You cannot rape your spouse. There’s very clear case law,” he said. 

In fact, marital rape has been illegal in all states for decades.

Trump allegedly once called breast-pumping ‘disgusting’

Trump’s former lawyer Elizabeth Beck told the New York Times that Trump once called her request to take a break to breast-pump “disgusting.”

"He got up, his face got red, he shook his finger at me and he screamed, 'You're disgusting, you're disgusting,' and he ran out of there," she told CNN.

August 2015

Trump is challenged about calling Rosie O’Donnell a ‘dog’

During the first Republican presidential debate, moderator and Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly questioned Trump about his insults of women.

"You've called women you don't like 'fat pigs,' 'dogs,' 'slobs' and 'disgusting animals,’” she said.

"Only Rosie O'Donnell,” Trump responded, referring to the decade-long feud between the two celebrities. 

Trump crudely criticizes Megyn Kelly for her moderating style

“She gets out and she starts asking me all sorts of ridiculous questions," Trump said in an interview. "You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever. In my opinion, she was off base."

The comment, which was widely construed to be a reference to menstruation, immediately drew outrage.

Kelly said she would not apologize.

“Trump, who is the front-runner, will not apologize. And I certainly will not apologize for doing good journalism. So I'll continue doing my job without fear or favor,” she said.

September 2015

Trump mocks Carly Fiorina’s appearance

In an article, Rolling Stone revealed Trump’s off-screen commentary while he was watching the news.

“Look at that face!” he said when the camera panned to then-Republican candidate Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard. “Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!”

December 2015

Trump makes vulgar statements about Hillary Clinton at a campaign rally

"I know where she went — it's disgusting, I don't want to talk about it,” he said about a restroom break Hillary Clinton took during a Democratic debate.

At the same rally, he referenced her 2008 Democratic primary loss to Barack Obama by using a vulgar term for a penis.

"She was favored to win, and she got schlonged,” he said.

January 2016

A former Trump campaign staffer alleges sex discrimination

Former staffer Elizabeth Mae Davidson alleged that she was paid less than her male colleagues. She also claimed that Trump had commented on her and a female colleague’s appearance, saying, "You guys could do a lot of damage.”

Trump denied making that remark. And the campaign issued a statement saying that Davidson had been been fired from the campaign for “doing a terrible job.”

March 2016

Campaign manager Corey Lewandowski is accused of grabbing a female reporter

Michelle Fields, a reporter at the time for the right-win Breitbart News, accused then-Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski of grabbing her arm as she scrambled to catch up with Trump after a campaign event. Video evidence surfaced that appeared to support her claim, but prosecutors declined to pursue charges and Lewandowski stayed on the campaign. He was fired two months later, reportedly because of feuding between him and then-campaign Chairman Paul Manafort.

Trump says women would ‘have to face some form of punishment’ if abortion were made illegal

After public outcry following the remark during a taping of a town hall on MSNBC, Trump retracted his statement that women should be legally punished for having abortions:

"The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb. My position has not changed — like Ronald Reagan, I am pro-life with exceptions."

April 2016

Trump accuses Clinton of playing ‘the woman’s card’ to get votes

The statement prompted the Clinton campaign to start using the comment as a talking point at rallies, and offered supporters their own deck of “woman cards.”

May 2016

Dozens of women say Trump acted inappropriately or made unwanted advances, a New York Times report reveals

The more than 50 interviews with the New York Times include former employees, pageant contestants and companions of Trump.

June 2016

Trump campaign filings show that male staffers earn about 35% more than female staffers

The documents echoed Davidson’s allegations from January. They also showed that 75% of Trump staffers are men.

July 2016

Manafort says women will vote for Trump because their husbands can’t pay the bills

In an interview with MSNBC, then-campaign Chairman Manafort said women “can't afford their lives. Husbands can't pay for the family bills." Interviewer Chris Matthews pointed out that the argument is archaic because it assumes men to be the breadwinners.

Trump implies that Muslim women aren’t allowed to speak without permission

In response to Khizr Khan, the father of a fallen solider who criticized Trump at the Democratic National Convention, Trump pointed to Khan’s wife, Ghazala. He suggested that she remained silent on stage because she was prohibited from speaking:

“Maybe she wasn't allowed to have anything to say. You tell me.”

August 2016

An old sexual-assault lawsuit against campaign CEO Stephen Bannon surfaces

Longtime Breitbart News chief Stephen Bannon and Kellyanne Conway are brought into lead the Trump campaign. Bannon was one reason Fields left Breitbart after alleging that Lewandowski had grabbed her.

Shortly after Bannon was brought onto the campaign as its CEO, domestic-violence charges against him from 1996 resurfaced. Trump didn’t comment publicly on those allegations, but did comment on Clinton aide Huma Abedin's marriage to former Rep. Anthony Weiner after new lewd text messages from Weiner to other women were revealed. Soon after, the couple announced their separation.

Conway’s comments about rape surface

In a 2013 PBS video, Conway, now Trump’s campaign manager, said that if women were physically stronger, "rape wouldn't exist.”

Trump announces an all-male team of economic advisors

The group of 13 billionaires includes no women. Soon after, Trump added several women to the group.

September 2016

Fox News pays $20 million to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit against Trump advisor Roger Ailes

Ailes, Fox News’ CEO and a longtime advisor for Trump, remains close to the nominee even after former “Fox & Friends” anchor Gretchen Carlson and several other women at Fox News accused him of sexual harassment. Ailes was forced to retire after the allegations surfaced.

Trump’s insults of former Miss Universe Alicia Machado are spotlighted during the debate

During the first presidential debate, Clinton details his treatment of former beauty queen Alicia Machado.

“He called the woman ‘Miss Piggy.’ Then he called her ‘Miss Housekeeping,’ because she was Latina. Donald, she has a name.”

Trump wanted to fire women at golf course who weren’t pretty enough, the Los Angeles Times finds

Female employees at Trump’s California golf club from the early to mid-2000s said that appearance was a huge factor in how they were treated.

"I had witnessed Donald Trump tell managers many times while he was visiting the club that restaurant hostesses were 'not pretty enough' and that they should be fired and replaced with more attractive women,” said Hayley Strozier, who was director of catering at the club until 2008.

October 2016

An ‘Access Hollywood’ video from 2005 surfaces, revealing Trump making lewd and predatory comments about women 

“When you’re a star, you can do anything you want,” Trump is heard saying in the vulgarity-filled video.

Trump issued a video statement apologizing for the remarks, in which he also said that the old video was a mere “distraction” in the presidential campaign. 

“Let’s be honest — we’re living in the real world,” Trump said. “This is nothing more than a distraction from the important issues we’re facing today.”

Twitter: @cshalby


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