Gaffe Track: Trump Shrugs at Sexual Harassment

Rebecca Cook / Reuters
Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

The candidate: Donald Trump

The gaffe: USA Today’s Kirsten Powers asked Trump about the allegations of sexual harassment that toppled Fox News honcho Roger Ailes. When Trump downplayed them, she asked how he’d feel if his daughter was harassed. “I would like to think she would find another career or find another company if that was the case,” he said. Tuesday morning, Trump’s son Eric tried to clean it up. While saying harassment should be reported and dealt with, he added, “I don’t think she would allow herself to be subjected to that.”

The defense: The Republican has said he “would be the best for women” and that “Nobody has more respect for women than Donald Trump!”

Why it matters (or doesn’t): As Powers notes, Trump’s answer falls short for several reasons. It overlooks the fact that not all women can easily just leave a job. Moreover, it pushes the illegality of harassment off to the side, while placing the burden to rectify the situation on victims of sexual harassment. Eric Trump’s answer, meanwhile, implies that victims of harassment are somehow not “strong.” These sorts of statements matter because they’re liable to alienate women, a group with which Trump already trails badly—57-43 in a recent CNN poll; his unfavorable rating with women is even worse.

The lesson: Don’t blame the victim, especially if the victim is a voter.