The Deep Cynicism of Trump's Rape Accusation

Did the Republican level an allegation that he doesn’t believe for political gain? Or did he have his wife pose with a man he regards as a rapist at their wedding?

Scott Audette / Reuters

Dear Donald Trump supporters,

Can we talk again?

In a recent Tweet, your candidate said this of Bill Clinton:

Trump also went on Fox News and told a national TV audience that Bill Clinton may be a rapist, airing an accusation made by Juanita Broaddrick during the 1990s.

This is doubtless uncomfortable for the Clintons, especially given Hillary Clinton’s recent statement that all accusers should be believed. But it seems to me that Trump supporters should find this turn in the campaign uncomfortable, too.

Think about it. There are only two possibilities.

Perhaps Donald Trump truly believes that Bill Clinton is a rapist, or at best “one of the worst abusers of women” in U.S. history, as he said. And therefore, Trump invited a man he believes to be a rapist to his wedding, where Trump had his new wife pose beside the ostensible abuser, Trump smiling as the man he believed to be a sexual predator posed with his arm encircling his new bride’s waist.

See for yourself.

And don’t miss this one either. Later, Trump went on Fox and said of Hillary Clinton and the man he believes to be a rapist, “I’ve known her and her husband for years and I really like them both a lot.” He even chatted on the phone with Bill Clinton before getting in the race. In this telling, Trump has a deeply weird attitude toward rapists, abusers of women, and the sorts of photos one takes at one’s wedding.

Or maybe Trump doesn’t actually believe that Bill Clinton is a rapist, or one of the worst abusers of women in history. Rather, he is cynically and falsely publicizing a rape accusation, knowing the accused may well be innocent, because spreading it will help Trump to win power. A frivolous or disingenuous rape accusation would typically make Trump supporters apoplectic. It’s the sort of thing they accuse the liberal media, lying politicians, and “social justice warriors” of perpetrating. They regard false rape accusations as serious if not unforgivable transgressions. Yet in this telling, Trump is engaged in that behavior for pure political benefit.

There’s no way to determine what Donald Trump truly believes.

But it’s got to be one or the other, and either option ought to make him look bad in the eyes of many of his supporters, given their own beliefs. So why doesn’t this bother Trump supporters? Even apart from Bill Clinton’s history with women, whatever it really entails, I understand why they’re so averse to Hillary Clinton.

I am too. I promise. For so many reasons. But there are other options if you hate typical politicians or want to tell the establishment to go to hell. So why aren’t they similarly averse to Trump?