On Saturday morning, President Trump posted an apparent critique of the #MeToo movement on Twitter. “Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation,” he declared. “Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused––life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”
Within hours, his tweet garnered almost 100,000 “likes” as his supporters echoed outrage at the notion of serious accusations that harm people who are innocent of them.
The tweet came the day after Trump said that his staff secretary, Rob Porter, “says he’s innocent and I think you have to remember that,” and wished him well—even as he resigned in the face of multiple allegations of domestic violence. And it was written by a man who has himself been accused by at least 19 women of sexual misconduct.
Of course, outrage at false accusations is proper, whether or not they “destroy” someone’s life or literally “end” their career. Whether a given American is a supporter or a critic of #MeToo, most agree that carelessly or falsely accusing someone of serious misbehavior in public is wrongheaded and deeply irresponsible.
But how is it that so many people who purport to hold those common-sense convictions support one of the most frequent perpetrators of false and irresponsible accusations in America? Trump supporters who are outraged at such behavior are also complicit in empowering one of the worst offenders. When donning Make America Great Again hats, they affiliate themselves with someone who treats others as badly as Jackie treated that UVA fraternity.
Donald Trump accused Ted Cruz’s father of helping to assassinate John F. Kennedy.
He went on CNN and accused Ted Cruz himself of having an affair with a former staffer based on nothing more solid than a story in a supermarket tabloid.
In 1989, when a group of minority teens were convicted of raping a female jogger in Central Park, Trump bought newspaper ads calling for them to be executed. Later, the teens were exonerated—Trump had unwittingly called for five innocents to be put to death. But instead of apologizing, he has continued to speak about the exonerated men as if they were guilty, doing so as recently as 2016.
How would Trump’s supporters on the populist right regard someone who kept talking about the Duke lacrosse players falsely accused of rape as if they were guilty today?
Yet Trump supporters rally around the president as if he is superior. In famous and infamous cases, the hypocrisy is glaring––and Trump’s transgressions don’t stop there.
Trump falsely accused Barack Obama of forging his own birth certificate and thus perpetrating an election fraud en route to his successful 2008 run for the presidency.
Trump falsely claimed that thousands of Arabs were cheering the 9/11 attacks on the streets of New Jersey.
Citing Ben Carson’s account of his own flaws as a much younger man, Trump said the mild-mannered neurosurgeon’s “pathological temper” was incurable, adding, “if you’re a child molester, a sick puppy, a child molester, there’s no cure for that—there’s only one cure and we don’t want to talk about that cure, that’s the ultimate cure. No there’s two, there’s death and the other thing. But if you’re a child molester, there’s no cure, they can’t stop you. Pathological, there’s no cure."
If a liberal journalist, or a Black Lives Matter activist, or a Democratic politician made even a quarter as many false accusations as Trump, much of the right would be apoplectic, cite it as evidence of the moral bankruptcy of their opponents, and righteously insist on the perpetrator’s termination and shaming.
Their acceptance of Trump’s irresponsible and blatantly false accusations is discrediting––a sign that they have abandoned the moral and civic standards that they purport to believe and in some cases still think of themselves as believing. It ought to jar them to discover themselves complicit in that which stokes their contempt when perpetrated by anyone besides Trump, who corrupts.