Earlier in this campaign season, I proved that nobody likes being touched by Donald Trump. With a portfolio of incontrovertible photographic evidence, I confirmed my then-unpopular suspicion that enduring physical contact with the man who still believes he was right to call for the execution of five innocent teenagers is an unpleasant experience.
But the many allegations of sexual assault and forced kissing that women have brought against Trump since then have cast a more sinister light on Trump’s repulsive touch. He’s not just a handsy creep; he’s admitted that he enjoys touching people without their consent.
So when Trump tried to kiss a little girl on the lips at a rally in Wisconsin on Monday, observers grew concerned. “WHERE ARE HER PARENTS” and “WHO LET THIS HAPPEN,” wondered a Facebook commenter. “He is disgusting and sick,” someone wrote on YouTube. It wasn’t just that Trump went for her mouth after planting a smooch on her cheek—it was the look on her face, a stoic smile and blank eyes, as she turned her head away from him.
“That is the most beautiful little girl. Hi, honey,” Trump said as he pointed out the girl in the audience. “What a beautiful—look how beautiful. Hi. You wanna come up and see me? Huh? You wanna come up? Come on! Most beautiful little girl. Wow. And she got all decked out for this evening. Wooooow. So beautiful.”
When Trump hoisted her up, the little girl tugged at the hem of her skirt. When he leaned in to kiss her cheek, she lifted her clenched hand near his face, then looked off to her parents in the audience. When Trump went in for a second time as the crowd cheered, she pushed him away by the chest. She did not want to be kissed. He didn’t ask if she wanted to be kissed. He kissed her anyway.
To Trump’s credit, he did not insinuate that he’d like to date her in a few years, as he has said to two 14-year-old girls and one 10-year-old girl on separate occasions, or call her “my African American over here,” as he labeled one black supporter at a rally. But he did use a child’s body, apparently against her will, to boost his own personal and political image. Ted Cruz did the same with one of his daughters when he tried to force her into an unwanted kiss for the cameras in February.
This Trump moment feels somehow worse. It’s not his own kid, for one thing, so there’s no existing affection or precedent to justify a kiss on the lips. And in the wake of rising accusations of sexual assault, Trump’s repeated kisses were a transparent effort to make himself seem less sleazy, less predatory, and less racist. Trump’s candidacy has succeeded thus far because of his bald appeals to misogyny and racism. Now, he’s using forced physical intimacy with a little black girl, whose humanity Trump has made an entire campaign out of denigrating, to try and convince voters otherwise.