“Nobody has more respect for women than I do,” Donald Trump said during Wednesday night’s mercifully final presidential debate, drawing sniggers from the audience.
It’s hard to believe the flailing GOP nominee isn’t in on the joke. After 90 minutes of attacking and belittling Hillary Clinton, he delivered the final indignity in the debate’s closing remarks—a succinct but ultimately weak sputter directed at his opponent: “Such a nasty woman.”
Trump had flamed out, exhausted by his own rage. Somewhere, the 13 women who have accused him of sexual assault or misconduct were enraged, too, by his “nobody has more respect for women than I do” claim, which is patently absurd at this point, along with his remark that he doesn’t even know any of his accusers (“those people”), one of whom interviewed him.
After accusing the Clinton campaign of engineering those allegations, Trump needlessly dragged his wife, Melania, back into the scandal, boasting that he “didn’t even apologize to my wife, who is sitting right here because I didn’t do anything.”
He could have simply denied the allegations, but instead he invoked Melania, whom he has ritually humiliated over the course of his campaign.
Trump talks endlessly about how much he cherishes the women he’s close to, especially his daughter Ivanka, but he’s repeatedly thrown them under the bus in failed attempts to make himself look like less of a loser.Still, the Trump women determinedly, and devotedly, work for Donald Trump.
Tiffany, his 23-year-old daughter with Marla Maples, did not grow up with her father in her daily life, but she has been increasingly present during his presidential campaign.
She gave a speech singing her father’s praises at the RNC convention, and The New York Times reported recently that “Mr. Trump’s team appears to be grooming Tiffany—gingerly—to pitch in on the campaign trail in the coming weeks, particularly with millennials.”
On Tuesday, Melania was trotted out for an interview with Fox & Friends to tell the country that, while what her husband said in the leaked 2005 Access Hollywood tape was “offensive to me” and “inappropriate,” he’s apologized to her and “we are moving on.”
She also said it was fair for the media to dig into Bill Clinton’s past because they had dug into hers, referring to the nude, full-frontal images the New York Post featured on its cover two days in a row back in August.
Needless to say, the Post had endorsed Trump by that point, and her husband was seemingly complicit in the re-publication of Melania’s old modeling photos. He was even quoted in one of the features, meekly defending his wife (“In Europe, pictures like this are very fashionable and common”) but mostly defending himself, claiming the photo was taken “prior to my knowing Melania.”
The mini-scandal was also a convenient distraction for Trump, whose feud with the parents of a fallen Muslim soldier had provoked outrage at the time from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and other Republican leaders. Trump was also under fire for suggesting Russia hack his opponent’s private email server.
In the midst of a particularly negative news cycle for Trump, it seemed like Melania was being used as a scapegoat for her husband’s reckless presidential campaign. Likewise when, after it was revealed that a passage of her RNC speech was plagiarized from a 2008 convention speech by Michelle Obama, the Trump campaign lied and deflected for a day and a half before an “in-house” speechwriter claimed responsibility.
Melania’s RNC speech was supposed to be her time to shine, a rare moment when the silent trophy wife running to be America’s first lady would say something substantive. Given how poor her English is, you’d think the Trump campaign might have hired a better speechwriter to prevent her from brutally embarrassing herself.
Then there’s the superhumanly buttoned-up Ivanka, a devoted daughter and loyal campaigner for her father, despite being routinely humiliated by him.Earlier Wednesday, when asked whether her father would accept the election results at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit in California, Ivanka told Time editor Nancy Gibbs that she believed her father would “accept the outcome either way.”But during his final moments on the debate stage Wednesday night, Trump left America with an unprecedented question mark when he refused to say whether he would accept the results of the election should he lose. “I will look at it at the time...I will keep you in suspense,” he said.At the Fortune summit, Ivanka countered a New York Times report that suggested that Trump businesses were suffering because of her father's presidential campaign.“It’s demoralizing when you’re working very hard and you have teams working tremendously hard to read these things,” Ivanka said. “So I think the bias is very, very real and I don’t think I would have said this to you even a year ago but I’ve seen it too many times. It’s tremendous.”
Arguably, the peril of her father’s words and deeds would have the gravest impact on Ivanka’s clothing business itself—focused as it is on women and with a hashtag (#WomenWhoWork) aimed at fostering female empowerment.
Ivanka has—so far non-critically—observed her father creepily suggesting that he finds his own daughter sexually attractive, and now a potential sexual predator and misogynist who proudly said he gropes non-consenting women, and denied sexual assault accusations because his accusers were too ugly to be assaulted.
When everyone else was either mocking Trump or enraged over his “nobody has more respect for women than I do” claim Wednesday night, Melania and Ivanka remained, as ever, silent.