The Slatest

Trump Calls Sexual Assault Survivors “Paid Professionals” and “Very Rude Elevator Screamers”

Sen. Jeff Flake in an elevator, behind a security guard.
Sen. Jeff Flake enters a service elevator at the Office of Senate Security on Thursday. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

With less than two hours before the Senate procedural vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination, President Trump—who, as the conflict over the Supreme Court nominee grew hotter, became less restrained, vocalizing increasingly explicitly his frustrations toward the alleged victim of sexual assault and her supporters and going so far as to openly mock Christine Blasey Ford—appeared set to finish out the final morning before the vote with overt conspiracy-mongering.

On Friday, at about 9 a.m., Trump tweeted his theory about the survivors of sexual assault who confronted Sen. Jeff Flake in an elevator last week after he said he would vote for the nominee.

As with the best conspiracy theories, this one starts from a tiny bit of truth that is stretched to absurd lengths. Ana Maria Archila and Maria Gallagher, the two protesters, both work at a nonprofit called Center for Popular Democracy, which has received money from George Soros. That, of course, has nothing to do with their own experience of having been assaulted. “I was sexually assaulted and nobody believed me,” Gallagher said. “I didn’t tell anyone, and you’re telling all women that they don’t matter.”

The protesters-paid-for-by-Soros theory has been a popular one among conspiracy-minded conservatives since Trump’s election. Trump himself has promoted the theory in the past, but it is possibly surprising that he chose to question the relatively small elevator protests rather than the thousands who marched to the Capitol on Thursday. Instead, by dismissing the professed survivors of sexual assault as liars, he took the theory into new territory.

It may be, though, that Trump was lashing out against a form of protest that appears to have had partial success: They are credited with playing a role in Flake’s decision to demand an FBI background investigation before the final vote. Certainly other legislators have taken Trump’s more tact-free approach when it comes to sexual assault protesters around elevators: On Thursday, Sen. Orrin Hatch taunted a group of female protesters and told them to “grow up.”

Update, Oct. 5 at 11:12 a.m.: This post has been updated with more information about the protesters.