Since the sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh were made public last week, President Trump had been notably restrained.
“We gotta let it play out—but he is a fine, fine person.” Trump said at a Las Vegas rally on Thursday night. “I think everything is going to be just fine.”
Even White House aides, according to CNN, were “quietly stunned” by Trump’s initially muted response that Kavanaugh's accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, should be heard through a normal process. The president later bragged about the positive media coverage he had received for his response—or lack thereof—to Ford’s accusations, multiple sources told the news network.
But that all changed Friday morning, when Trump blasted Ford in a Twitter hail storm, questioning the severity of her attack and why she didn’t go to authorities more than 30 years ago.
“I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents, Trump tweeted at 6:14 a.m., the second after calling his supreme court nominee a “fine man.” He continued: “I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time, and place!”
Fifteen minutes (and one tweet) later, Trump attacked the “radical left lawyers” who want the FBI involved, asking his Twitter followers: “Why didn’t someone call the FBI 36 years ago?”
The president’s attacks against Ford—a California professor who says the Supreme Court nominee sexually assaulted her as a teenager, holding her down and putting his hand over her mouth while simultaneously attempting to remove her clothes—might be distasteful, but they are not out of character.
Trump has used a similar playbook in response to allegations of sexual misconduct against a number of men, especially ones he has considered friends, including former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, the network’s late founder Roger Ailes, former White House staffer Rob Porter, and professional boxer Mike Tyson.
In fact, Donald Trump can’t seem to stop defending high-profile men battling sexual-misconduct accusations, often personally vouching for them.
Last April, The New York Times reported Fox News and O’Reilly paid about $13 million over many years to silence multiple sexual-misconduct complaints made against the primetime star by at least five separate women.
Four days later, despite a widespread outcry against O’Reilly, Trump confidently defended the former Fox News host in an interview with the same newspaper that pAiles ublished the initial allegations.
“I think he's a person I know well—he is a good person,” the president said. “I think he shouldn't have settled; personally I think he shouldn't have settled. Because you should have taken it all the way. I don't think Bill did anything wrong.”
While running for president,Trump used a similar phrase to defend former Fox News chief Roger Ailes after two dozen women accused him of sexual harassment in 2016, ultimately leading to his ouster from the right-wing cable channel.
“I think they are unfounded just based on what I’ve read,” Trump told the Washington Examiner. “Totally unfounded, based on what I read.”
Later, in an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press, Trump even went as far to question the motives of the women accusing Ailes.
“He’s been a friend of mine for a long time,” Trump said. “And I can tell you that some of the women that are complaining, I know how much he’s helped them. And even recently. And when they write books that are fairly recently released, and they say wonderful things about him.”
Soon after Trump became president, several high-profile conservative figures—including some within Trump’s orbit—were accused of sexual misconduct.
After taking office, Trump nominated business mogul Andrew Puzder as his first pick for secretary of labor, despite known allegations of domestic abuse and battery by his ex-wife Lisa Fierstein.
In their 1992 divorce proceedings, Fierstein claimed that Puzder had struck her “violently about the face, chest, back, shoulders, and neck, without provocation or cause.” Puzder eventually withdrew his nomination amid public outcry, all while the president remained entirely silent on the matter.
When Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore was accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct—including one woman claiming he attempted to rape her when she was a teenager—Trump was dismissive, ultimately defending Moore because of a partisan calculation: better him than a Democrat.
“If you look at what is really going on and you look at all the things that have happened over the last 48 hours, he totally denies it,” Trump said. “He says it didn’t happen. And you know, you have to listen to him also.”
“I can tell you one thing for sure: We don’t need a liberal person in there, a Democrat—[Doug] Jones,” Trump ultimately concluded.
And when two women in February accused former White House staff secretary Rob Porter of physical and emotional spousal abuse, Trump praised his work in the administration, saying, “We certainly wish him well and it’s a tough time for him.”
“He also, as you probably know says he’s innocent and I think you have to remember that,” Trump told reporters. “He said very strongly yesterday that he’s innocent so you have to talk to him about that, but we absolutely wish him well, he did a very good job when he was at the White House.”
And Trump’s defense of friends embroiled in sexual-misconduct scandals predates his involvement in politics.
When professional boxer Mike Tyson was convicted of rape by an Indiana jury in 1992, it took no time for his friend, then-real-estate mogul Donald Trump, to come to his defense.
“I’m totally opposed to obviously what happened. I’m a very strong believer in harsh punishment,” Trump said. “But we think it’s probably, in this particular case, a lot more good can be done by having Mike Tyson pay a substantial award both to the victim subject to court approval and creating a ward for people that were abused or raped in the state of Indiana.”
Tyson was ultimately found guilty of raping 18-year-old Miss Black America contestant Desiree Washington. Though he was originally sentenced to six years (Trump publicly said he didn’t deserve that prison time), Tyson only served three.
Trump’s impulsive dismissiveness towards sexual-misconduct claims against his pals makes sense, however, considering he has been accused of inappropriate behavior by more than a dozen women.
“Total fabrication. The events never happened. Never. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over,” he said at a campaign stop in Pennsylvania shortly before the election, as more and more women came forward to accuse him of actions ranging from groping to sexual assault.
“Look at her. Look at her words. Tell me what you think. I don’t think so,” Trump said of that accuser, Natasha Stoynoff.
There are moments, however, when Trump does seem to believe the alleged victims. And, of course, those instances are almost exclusively when the accused man is not within his social circle or is a political rival of his.
In November 2017, Democratic Sen. Al Franken was accused of groping numerous women following reports that included photographic evidence. The senator initially denied these accusations, but later publicly apologized for his past actions and resigned from office.
Though he was initially restrained, Trump took to his favorite social-media platform and tweeted: “The Al Frankenstein picture is really bad, speaks a thousand words. Where do his hands go in pictures 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 while she sleeps?”
During the election, Trump commented on the multiple misconduct allegations against former President Bill Clinton, even holding a news conference with Clinton’s accusers before inviting them as guests at a presidential debate against his opponent Hillary Clinton.
Notably, the new conference and renewed attacks against the former president occurred days after the leak of a 2005 Access Hollywood tape in which Trump can be heard boasting about grabbing women “by the pussy” without their consent.
And back in 2013, Trump gloated about the sexual-misconduct allegations leveled against liberal New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who resigned following allegations that he patronized an escort service, and former Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner, who at the time was involved in multiple sexting scandals.
“With the two wacko perverts—Spitzer and Weiner—NYC politics has become a joke all over the world,” Trump tweeted.
Similarly, Trump had no hesitation about believing the alleged victims of Democratic mega-donor and Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.
“I’ve known Harvey Weinstein for a long time. I’m not at all surprised to see it,” Trump said after the New Yorker published a massive exposé detailing years worth of alleged sexual abuse by Weinstein.
Perhaps the most famous example of Trump actually believing a sexual-assault accuser was when he launched a public crusade against five black teens accused of attacking and raping Trisha Meili, a white female jogger in New York’s Central Park, on April 19, 1989.
Days after the alleged attack, the billionaire developer took out full-page advertisements in four New York City newspapers calling for the death penalty for the “Central Park Five.”
Above his signature in full-page newspaper advertisements calling for the boys to die, Trump wrote “I want to hate these muggers and murderers. They should be forced to suffer and, when they kill, they should be executed for their crimes. They must serve as examples so that others will think long and hard before committing a crime or an act of violence.”
The five men were convicted and served prison sentences, even though in 2002, a man named Matias Reyes confessed to being the lone attacker and rapist, with a DNA test confirming his claims. The Central Park Five’s convictions were vacated that year.