Election 2016

Misogyny Is Trump's Brand

Gingrich's attacks on Megyn Kelly are the latest clear indicator of the fuel Trump's campaign runs on.

Photo Credit: screen shot / Fox News Channel

When, as a campaign surrogate and once-powerful white man, you answer allegations that your candidate may be a sexual predator with a sex-laced attack on your female interviewer, you’re probably a misogynist. A desperate misogynist.

That’s what former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is looking like this morning.

During a Tuesday discussion of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s sinking poll numbers, Gingrich accused Fox News Channel host Megyn Kelly of being “fascinated with sex” after she dared to mention Trump’s fortunes began falling after the now infamous Access Hollywood video became public on October 7. Kelly pointed out that nearly a dozen women have come forward to allege that Trump had either assaulted them or taken liberties with their bodies.

From the beginning, the primary animating force of the Trump campaign has been the candidate’s misogyny, as he set his position for challenging the first woman to be the presidential nominee of a major political party. I say this not to make light of the extremely threatening rhetoric Trump uses to describe immigrants and Muslims, his dog-whistling to the anti-Semitic alt-right, or his demeaning portrayals of African Americans and Latinos.

Taken together, these attacks by Trump serve as a rallying point for white Americans who feel unnerved by changes in the social order of their nation. But Trump is running against a white, Christian candidate—who happens to be a woman. If he loses the election, he will not lose to a Muslim, a black person, a Latino, or a Latina. He will have been bested by a woman, the category of human for which he may actually have the most contempt. The assault allegations against him were all made by women. That’s the common thread.

America may have a racism problem and a religious bigotry problem and an anti-immigrant problem and a homophobia problem, but it also has a big misogyny problem—a fact that is often overlooked, given all of the other problems. But one need only look at the make-up of the United States Congress, where women hold only 19 percent of House seats and 20 percent of Senate seats, in a nation where women comprise greater than 50 percent of the overall population.

Gingrich’s conflation of sexual assault allegations with sex are typical of what feminists call “rape culture,” as is painting a woman who would make such allegations, a "slut." And in the eyes of a sexist, a woman who is “fascinated by sex” must surely be a slut.

The minute Kelly mentioned Trump's accusers—the women who have come forward—Gingrich pounced.

Let’s have the Washington Post’s Rebecca Sinderbrand describe it for us:

Gingrich, on Fox in his role as a Donald Trump surrogate, had questioned the stories of women who’ve come forward to accuse Trump of sexual assault—and the relative importance of the controversy itself, relative to Hillary Clinton’s alleged misdeeds.

Kelly pushed back. “As a media story, we don’t get to say that 10 women are lying. We have to cover that story, sir,” said the Fox anchor.

“Sure. Okay,” Gingrich said. “So, so it’s worth 23 minutes of the three networks to cover that story, and Hillary Clinton had a secret speech in Brazil to a bank that pays her 225,000 [dollars], saying her dream is an open border where 600 million people could come to America—that’s not worth covering …”

“That is worth covering,” interjected Kelly. “And we did.”

Gingrich was still speaking: “ … I mean, you want to go back through the tapes of your show recently, you are fascinated with sex, and you don’t care about public policy.” [Emphasis mine.]

Make no mistake: Misogyny is the brand. This was not a gaffe. It was a cry to every white man who ever felt one-upped by a woman. (“Don’t be a Pussy, Vote for Trump,” to quote a campaign sign.) It was a cry to that percentage of white women who never got over seeing a man in their lives get one-upped by some smartypants woman, or to those in radical denial that bad things that have happened to them may have happened because they are women.

Poor Gingrich was ultimately one-upped by Kelly, a fact I would celebrate if I wasn’t left wondering whether the humiliation of the former speaker would actually work in Trump’s favor. Turning out the base, it’s called.

Closing out the interview, Kelly said to Gingrich: “And you can take your anger issues and spend some time working on them, Mr. Speaker.”

Drops mic.

Gingrich tweeted out video of the interview. Job well done.

Adele M. Stan is a weekly columnist for The American Prospect. Follow her on Twitter @addiestan.