Donald Trump likened backers of international trade agreements to rapists on Tuesday. “The Trans-Pacific Partnership is another disaster done and pushed by special interests who want to rape our country, just a continuing rape of our country,” he said. “That’s what it is, too. It’s a harsh word: It’s a rape of our country.”
It wasn’t the first time he’d used the word that way. He accused China of rape last month: “We can’t continue to allow China to rape our country,” he said. “And that’s what they’re doing. It’s the greatest theft in the history of the world.”
But looking at how Trump uses the word rape, and whom he accuses of it, reveals a pattern. He uses it to demonize his political targets. At the same time, he seems to lack empathy or understanding of what rape actually is.
“They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists,” he said last year about Mexican immigrants. He defended the statement by citing a Fusion report that an estimated 80 percent of Central American women coming across the border are raped. “I use the word rape and all of a sudden everyone goes crazy,” he said last July.
“Donald Trump has no problem throwing the word out,” said Lisa Bloom, a civil rights attorney. “I think he lacks seriousness when he uses the word. I think that’s offensive to rape victims and to women.”
Back in 1989, when five New York teenagers — four African-American and one Hispanic — were accused of beating and raping a white woman jogging in Central Park, Trump launched a massive PR campaign against them. He called them “crazed misfits.” They were in the park “wilding,” he said. He took out newspaper advertisements advocating for the death penalty to be used on the boys, all of whom turned out to be innocent.
When alleged rapists are members of a group Trump likes, however, he is more sympathetic. In 2013, in response to the Pentagon’s annual report on sexual assault, he tweeted: “26,000 unreported sexual assults [sic] in the military-only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together?”
Trump has gleefully brought up the various unproven allegations of sexual assault against Bill Clinton, at one point asserting that the former president was guilty of rape and calling Hillary Clinton an “enabler.” “She was an unbelievably nasty, mean enabler, and what she did to a lot of those women is disgraceful.”
Trump himself has been accused of rape and sexual assault, although none of the accusations has ever been proven. One accuser dropped her 1997 federal lawsuit. Another lawsuit, alleging that in 1994 Trump raped a 13-year-old, was filed last week. Trump’s ex-wife Ivana accused him of rape, though she later said it was “not in a literal or criminal sense.” The two divorced over Trump’s “cruel and inhuman treatment” of his wife.
Bloom has called those allegations credible. “I think anybody would consider it important if someone had been accused — in his case three times — of rape or attempted rape, and all of them in the context of court proceedings,” she said.
When Ivana Trump’s accusations resurfaced last year, Trump Organization special counsel Michael Cohen was dismissive: “You’re talking about the frontrunner for the GOP, presidential candidate, as well as a private individual who never raped anybody. And, of course, understand that by the very definition, you can’t rape your spouse,” he said. That is not true, and he later apologized.
When Trump’s friend Mike Tyson was convicted of rape in 1992, Trump proposed that he should be allowed to pay millions of dollars to rape victims instead of going to jail.
Trump has denied reports this week that Tyson was invited to speak at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. One person who will be there, though, according to Bloomberg, is former Indiana University basketball coach Bobby Knight, who once said: “I think that if rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it.”