In times of crisis, great leaders step up and take responsibility for their actions, honestly assess their own weaknesses, learn from their mistakes, and thus become even greater.
It should come as no surprise, then, that in the days since footage of Donald Trump bragging about committing sexual assault surfaced, he and his surrogates have scrambled to distract from the words Trump said and instead get people thinking about who the real enemies are: Fifty Shades of Grey, rap music, Magic Mike, Twilight, and Beyoncé.
Last night on CNN, Trump supporter and former New York Lt. Governor Betsy McCaughey pointed out that while what Trump said was bad, Hillary Clinton’s association with rap music proves that she doesn’t really care about lewd language. Host Don Lemon reminded her that rap music is not running for president.
McCaughey responded by taking Lemonade to Lemon.
“Hillary Clinton expresses that she finds the language on that bus ‘horrific’ but in fact she likes language like this: ‘I came to slay, bitch,’” said McCaughey. “‘When he f’ed me good I take his ass to Red Lobster.’ That happens to be from Beyoncé, her favorite performer. Whom she says she idolizes and would like to imitate.”
The Republican pundit was referring to a lyric from Beyoncé’s “Formation” and juxtaposing it with a quote from a Hillary Clinton town hall in Iowa last December. When a voter asked if she’d rather be president or Beyoncé, Clinton responded that day that she admired Beyoncé’s skills, and that she wanted to be “as good a president as Beyoncé is a performer.” Nobody asked Clinton a follow up question about whether she wished she’d named Chelsea “Blue Ivy” or if she’d let Tina Knowles design costumes for her, so it’s not clear where McCaughey is getting the idea that Clinton would “like to imitate” Beyoncé.
McCaughey isn’t the only Trump supporter to try the “but rap also does it” excuse. Ben Carson did it first, saying over the weekend that what Trump said is “the kind of language that we hear in rap music.” It didn’t go over well then, either.
But Carson wasn’t done shifting blame.
On Tuesday, when CNN’s Brianna Keilar said that she’d never heard men talk like Trump did in the recording, Carson responded, “Maybe that’s the problem.” In Trumpland, the problem is not that Trump said those things, but that people like Keilar had never heard those things.
Also on Monday, Trump surrogate Scottie Nell Hughes took a different tack, telling CNN’s Anderson Cooper that what Trump said was “sort of part of the culture.”
“Eighty million copies of Fifty Shades of Grey have been sold. Magic Mike was one of the most popular movies… you look at the vampire trilogy.” Panelist Ana Navarro called her claim “fifty shades of crazy.”
It seems strange surrogates have focused so firmly on the work and words of women and people of color to distract and shift blame from Trump. At best, McCaughey, Carson, and Hughes are trying to point to them as proof of hypocrisy on the part of those offended by what Trump said. At worst, they’re blaming black and women’s cultural preferences for sexual assault.