Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign is circulating talking points that instruct his supporters and campaign surrogates to attack Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton over Bill Clinton’s marital infidelity. If the media is going to report on those claims they should also note that Trump and his closest advisers are profoundly poor messengers for those claims.
According to CNN, one talking point says, “Hillary Clinton bullied and smeared women like Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers and Monica Lewinsky.” Another reads, “Are you blaming Hillary for Bill's infidelities? No, however, she's been an active participant in trying to destroy the women who has (sic) come forward with a claim.”
Politico reported that after the Republican nominee’s poor performance in the presidential debate, “threats emanated from Trump Tower on Tuesday that the Republican nominee was preparing to name-check Bill Clinton’s mistresses -- alleged or otherwise.”
Yet Trump and several of his campaign’s top staffers, allies, and surrogates have episodes of marital infidelity, sexual harassment, and alleged spousal abuse in their pasts, making them hypocritical messengers for this particular type of attack.
Trump and his allies have also directly attacked Clinton on this topic.
Trump himself has previously described former President Clinton as “one of the great woman abusers of all time,” and he said Hillary Clinton “went after the women very, very strongly and very viciously.” He also praised himself for not referencing the topic during the September 26 presidential debate, claiming, “I'm really happy I was able to hold back on the indiscretions in respect to Bill Clinton. Because I have a lot of respect for Chelsea Clinton.”
Newt Gingrich praised Trump for not bringing up the issue during the debate: “He thought about it, and I’m sure he said to himself, ‘a president of the United States shouldn’t attack somebody personally when their daughter is sitting in the audience.’” He added, “And he bit his tongue, and he was a gentleman, and I thought in many ways that was the most important moment of the whole evening. He proved that he had the discipline to remain as a decent guy even when she was disgusting.”
Rudy Giuliani said, “The president of the United States, her husband, disgraced this country with what he did in the Oval Office and she didn’t just stand by him, she attacked Monica Lewinsky. And after being married to Bill Clinton for 20 years, if you didn’t know the moment Monica Lewinsky said that Bill Clinton violated her that she was telling the truth, then you’re too stupid to be president.”
CNN’s Jake Tapper pointed out the problem with this line of attack on the September 29 edition of The Lead. “It doesn’t seem to me that Donald Trump, whose extramarital exploits filled tabloid after tabloid in the ‘80s and ‘90s and more has really that much of a moral high ground when it comes to the question of his rival’s husband’s infidelity.” Noting the role of Roger Ailes, Stephen Bannon, Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich in furthering the story, Tapper said Trump is “surrounded by a philanderer’s club,” and asked, “Why would any of these people have any leg to stand on when it comes to this sort of thing?”
Trump’s first wife, Ivana, filed for divorce after news surfaced that he was having an affair with Marla Maples. In court documents she accused Trump of “cruel and inhuman treatment.” Discussing the affair with Vanity Fair, Trump said, “When a man leaves a woman, especially when it was perceived that he has left for a piece of ass—a good one!—there are 50 percent of the population who will love the woman who was left.”
Trump later married Maples, then they divorced four years later. He married his current wife, Melania, in 2005.
Temple Taggart, a contestant in the Miss USA pageant that Trump owned, said he introduced himself to her by kissing her “directly on the lips,” adding, “I think there were a few other girls that he kissed on the mouth. I was like ‘Wow, that’s inappropriate.’”
Jill Harth worked with Trump on a beauty pageant in the 1990s and later accused him of engaging in inappropriate sexual behavior in the course of doing business with her. She said when she first met Trump, he asked her boyfriend, “‘Are you sleeping with her?’ Meaning me. And George looked a little shocked and he said, ‘Well, yeah.’ And he goes, ‘Well, for the weekend or what?’”
In a deposition, Harth said Trump groped her under a table, and she said, “This was a very traumatic thing working for him.”
Executives at the Trump Organization told The New York Times that Trump “occasionally interrupted routine discussions of business to opine on women’s figures.” According to Barbara Res, who worked as Trump’s head of construction, he once told her out of the blue that women in Marina del Rey “take care of their asses.”
Recently asked by USA Today columnist Kirsten Powers how he would feel if his daughter were subjected to sexual harassment at her place of business, he said, “I would like to think she would find another career or find another company if that was the case.”
Fox News founder and former chairman Roger Ailes has been advising the Trump campaign, and he helped prepare the candidate for the presidential debate.
Ailes was forced out at Fox News after former anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the network, alleging that she was pushed out of Fox after rebuffing his advances. According to The New York Times, Carlson recorded conversations with Ailes over the course of a year and a half. Carlson told the Times that in “between six and 10” of those conversations, Ailes made inappropriate comments.
Since Carlson’s lawsuit became public, at least 25 other women have come forward to accuse Ailes of sexually harassing them. The Washington Post reported, “Interviews with four of those women portray the 76-year-old television powerhouse as a man who could be routinely crude and inappropriate, ogling young women, commenting about their breasts and legs, and fostering a macho, insensitive culture.”
21st Century Fox (the parent company of Fox News) eventually paid Carlson a settlement of $20 million and issued a statement that said, “We sincerely regret and apologize for the fact that Gretchen was not treated with the respect and dignity that she and all of our colleagues deserve.”
Former Fox News director of booking Laurie Luhn told the law firm investigating the sexual harassment allegations against Ailes that he had harassed her for over 20 years. She described the experience as “psychological torture” to New York magazine, and she called Ailes “a predator.”
Luhn recalled that after she met with Ailes about a position as an office manager, he took her to dinner and then as she drove him to the airport, “We pull up and I say, ‘Thank you so much for dinner.’ He leans over and slips me the tongue and kisses me.” Luhn said he then handed her a wad of cash.
He put her on retainer to do what he described as “research,” then had her dress in lingerie and dance for him in a hotel room. Luhn said Ailes “asked her to perform oral sex,” then told her he would put a video recording of the encounter in a “safe-deposit box just so we understand each other.” Luhn said after that she regularly met Ailes in hotels for sexual encounters.
He later hired Luhn at Fox News and she became what one colleague described to New York as a “protected person,” while others said it was known that Ailes -- who is married -- was involved with her.
Luhn said she was instructed by Ailes to recruit young women for him, saying, “You’re going to find me ‘Roger’s Angels.’ You’re going to find me whores.”
Luhn said she had a series of mental breakdowns that she attributes to her experience with Ailes and that she was even hospitalized for a time as a result.
As her condition worsened, he moved her from Washington, D.C., to New York so he could monitor her. He demanded that she show him all of the emails she received and said he had to approve her outgoing messages after he would “dictate exactly” how she should respond.
She eventually alleged sexual harassment and then left Fox after agreeing to a $3.15 million settlement. As part of the deal, she signed a nondisclosure agreement with the network that barred her from going to court against the network or speaking to government agencies like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the FBI.
Stephen Bannon is the CEO of the Trump campaign and is on a leave of absence from his job as the chairman of the “alt-right” Breitbart News.
In 1996, Bannon was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence, battery and dissuading a witness. Politico reported that a Santa Monica, CA, police report “says that Bannon’s then-wife claimed he pulled at her neck and wrist during an altercation over their finances, and an officer reported witnessing red marks on her neck and wrist to bolster her account.” The report also said Bannon “reportedly smashed the phone when she tried to call the police.”
The police report also contained an allegation of past abuse from Bannon: “In the beginning of their relationship, she said they [had] 3 or 4 argument that became physical and they had been going to counseling.”
The case ended when Bannon’s ex-wife did not appear in court and Bannon pleaded “not guilty” to the allegations. A few months after, she filed to dissolve their marriage.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is a Trump campaign surrogate.
In 2000, Giuliani announced that he was separating from his then-wife Donna Hanover and, as The New York Times reported, “Ms. Hanover, caught unaware, then said that the couple's troubles began years ago because of a previous relationship between the mayor and a member of his staff.”
The Times reported that Hanover’s press secretary said the staff member was Cristyne Lategano-Nicholas, and “Friends of Ms. Hanover's said yesterday that she had described the relationship between her husband and Ms. Lategano-Nicholas as intimate while Ms. Lategano-Nicholas worked at City Hall.”
That same year, the news broke that Giuliani was having an affair with Judith Nathan. At taxpayer expense, Nathan received chauffeur service from the New York Police Department, as well as police protection. Giuliani and Hanover filed for divorce, and he later married Nathan, who is his current wife.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA) is a Trump campaign surrogate.
The New York Times reported that Gingrich said of his first wife, Jacqueline Battley, when filing for divorce, “She's not young enough or pretty enough to be the wife of a President. And besides, she has cancer.”
The Times reported that after the divorce, despite the couple having children together, she “filed court papers saying he had not provided reasonable support for her living expenses and that some of her accounts were ‘two or three months past due.’”
Gingrich remarried, and then had an affair with his congressional aide Callista Bisek, who is his current wife.