It’s hard to believe anyone could be fooled by Donald Trump’s I’m-not-saying-all-Mexicans-are-disease-ridden–rapists-but act. But Bill O’Reilly rallied and launched a defense of Trump on his Monday night show, spinning Trump’s rhetoric in ingenious ways. Turns out that when Trump said of Mexican immigrants, “They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists,” he actually meant that they are rape victims.
“Many migrant women are sexually molested, and that is the rape situation that Donald Trump mentioned,” O’Reilly explained. In short: It’s not rapists who threaten our country’s integrity; it’s their victims.
O’Reilly also did some fear-mongering about drug cartels, which are terrible and which are also largely irrelevant in this context. Immigration is mostly about people seeking work they wouldn’t need if they were working for drug cartels. But the crux of O’Reilly’s agreement with Trump was in his kicker: The murder of a white woman named Kate Steinle in San Francisco by Francisco Sanchez, an undocumented immigrant who has been deported to Mexico five times.
That crime was horrific. No one disputes this. O’Reilly thinks it alone is reason enough to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
Stoking fears that white women will be raped and murdered by racial minorities in order to justify oppression has a long and ignoble history in this country, from Trump and O’Reilly’s anti-immigrant rhetoric to the lynching of black men. My colleague Jamelle Bouie wrote about this deadly history in the wake of the mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, when Dylann Roof told his victims, “You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country, and you have to go.” This kind of rhetoric never shows any actual concern about the safety of women, of course. Six of Roof’s victims were women. Most rape victims know their attackers. The majority of rape victims are the same race as their attackers.
People who actually worry about violence against women focus efforts on how and why that violence happens. They don’t, as O’Reilly did when discussing a rape and murder in 2006, say, “She was 5-foot-2, 105 pounds, wearing a miniskirt and a halter top with a bare midriff. Now, again, there you go. So every predator in the world is gonna pick that up at 2 in the morning.”