Betsy McCaughey, the Donald Trump surrogate best known for popularizing the myth of Obamacare “death panels” in 2009, said Wednesday that all the women who have accused the candidate of sexual assault are just “man-shaming” him.
“The polls show that Americans are not buying this roll-out of accusers and this bigger theme of man-shaming,” McCaughey said on CNN Tonight With Don Lemon.
The former lieutenant governor of New York, McCaughey compared the allegations against Trump to the disproven rape allegations in the Duke lacrosse case of 2006 and Rolling Stone’s 2014 story of a gang rape at the University of Virginia that never happened. “Think of the injustice of it … Lives are ruined, and then the truth comes out,” she said.
“Man-shaming” is a clever amalgam of mansplaining and slut-shaming, two terms women have coined to describe how men diminish and discredit them. Trump loves to shame women for their sexual behavior—it’s one of his favored tactics for bullying his detractors into silence. When he tweeted that we should all check out the “sex tape” of Alicia Machado, the former Miss Universe he reportedly called “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping,” he was slut-shaming her for having sex on a Big Brother–like reality TV show, expecting that voters would discount her stories of Trump’s harassment because she wasn’t ashamed of her sexuality. When a porn actress and director Jessica Drake publicly accused Trump of grabbing and kissing her without her consent, Trump undermined the severity of the alleged incident by mocking her profession: “Oh, I’m sure she’s never been grabbed before,” he said.
Trump was trying to shame Machado and Drake for being people who have sex, which is nothing to be ashamed of. Reducing serious allegations of sexual assault to “man-shaming” implies that sexually victimizing women is natural male behavior—just boys being boys, talking locker-room talk and committing locker-room sex crimes. In that case, McCaughey is saying, holding men to task for sexual misdeeds is criminalizing manhood itself.
Earlier this month, McCaughey tried to defend Trump’s “grab them by the pussy” remarks by trashing Hillary Clinton’s love for Beyoncé. “I abhor rude and bawdy language. I don’t listen to rap music; I don’t like that kind of thing,” McCaughey said on CNN. She then quoted Bey’s “Formation”: “[Clinton] likes language like this: ‘I came to slay, bitch. When he f me good I take his ass to Red Lobster.’ ” I doubt even McCaughey thinks a presidential candidate listening to a pop song lyric about enjoying sex is equivalent to a presidential candidate describing how he coerces women into sexual contact, but her intended message was clear: Women who decry Trump’s treatment of women are hypocrites who want to see men suffer for being men.
The great thing about McCaughey’s spiral into linguistic acrobatics in defense of an indefensible man is she’s finally erased any lingering notions that she might be a credible political thinker. In her “death panel” days and her Philip Morris–backed criticism of the Clintons’ efforts at health care reform, McCaughey traded on her Ph.D. and scholarship in constitutional history to pass off her blatherings as legitimate analysis. Now, she’s a cable-news stooge trying to use Beyoncé lyrics and a sexist portmanteau to tamp down discussions of sexual assault. Smart career move!