Longtime GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway officially holds the title of Donald Trump’s “campaign manager.” What Conway really appears to be is Trump’s top surrogate, spending hours on television each day pleading his case with the invaluable white GOP women who are abandoning the Republican ticket in droves. But Conway can’t provide sufficient window dressing to hide the he-man woman-hater’s clubhouse the Trump campaign has become. Fox News’s decision to settle a lawsuit by former anchor Gretchen Carlson that charged Roger Ailes with grotesque sexual harassment is just the latest piece of information that ought to make reporters look more closely inside the frat house at Trump Tower, where Ailes is serving as an “adviser” to Trump, whether or not he’s on the payroll.
Ailes had to resign from Fox after an investigation revealed Carlson was just one of many female employees who faced coercion to have sex with Ailes, or else lose their jobs. He denied the charges, and his friend Trump stuck by him. “I can tell you that some of the women that are complaining, I know how much he’s helped them, and even recently,” Trump said after Carlson filed her lawsuit. Now Fox has essentially confirmed Carlson’s charges, with a reported $20 million settlement and an apology. “We sincerely regret and apologize for the fact that Gretchen was not treated with the respect and dignity that she and all of our colleagues deserve,” the formal statement said. What does Trump say? So far, nothing at all.
At Slate, Michelle Goldberg asked why “sadistic pervert” Ailes’s role as an adviser wasn’t causing trouble for the GOP nominee. The truth is, Trump has assembled a misogynistic ratpack within his campaign. His choice of Conway as campaign manager/top surrogate was brilliant; it deflected attention from the creepy men surrounding him, since she’s become the most prominent public face of the campaign besides the candidate.
But let’s look at who’s behind her. The campaign’s CEO—typically a more powerful position than campaign manager, though Conway insists she reports directly to Trump—is the notorious Steve Bannon, best known for making Breitbart.com a “platform for the alt-right,” as he told Mother Jones in July. Bannon himself has been accused of domestic violence as well as sexual harassment, and former Breitbart employees describe a toxic workplace where women were derided with the “C-word.” While Breitbart is best known for its racism—it spread Trump’s birtherism, and has a special subsection tracking “black crime”—its sexism is equally pernicious. Bannon himself recently denounced liberal feminists as “a bunch of dykes that came from the Seven Sisters’ schools up in New England.”
The former Breitbart CEO unleashed gay misogynist (and Trump worshiper) Milo Yiannopolous on the world, allowing him to post garbage like “Birth control makes women unattractive and crazy” and “I went gay so I wouldn’t have to deal with nutty broads.” Yiannopolous’s misogyny is actually a staple of the white nationalist thinking that flourishes on Breitbart: with our allegedly lesser IQs and physical strength, even white women can’t play the role of warrior, scientist, explorer, protector that’s crucial to society’s advancement, these loons believe. And now, rising demands for equality from women, Yiannapolous argues, are resulting in men “checking out en masse” from intimate relationships. When that happens, he says:
You can say good-bye to all of society’s best astrophysicists, mathematicians, philosophers, composers and chess players. Scientific progress will effectively stall, because men are just as happy beating a video game as they are solving the riddles of the universe—and they’ll take the entertainment option if they have no interest in impressing women. Women will not take men’s places in these disciplines, because there simply aren’t enough women with IQs over 120.
That’s Steve Bannon’s boy.
Trump also recently hired longtime GOP dirty-trickster David Bossie, who has peddled Clinton scandals his whole career, with a special emphasis on Hillary. Bossie ran the anti-Hillary Citizens United group that resulted in the Supreme Court decision that tore down campaign-finance laws and unleashed the flow of money that’s polluting politics today. His political career began with harassing the family of a young woman who committed suicide, on the (false) hunch that she had been romantically involved with Bill Clinton. George H.W. Bush vowed to “stop [Bossie’s] filthy campaign tactics,” but he couldn’t. Bossie fits in well with Trump; the only real question is what took him so long to join the team.
Then there’s longtime Trump ally Roger Stone, an original Richard Nixon “ratfucker” who has specialized in the most demeaning caricatures of Clinton. He founded an anti-Clinton group “Citizens United Not Timid” (check the acronym) back in 2008, confiding that he spent “hours trying to come up with words for B.I.T.C.H. and just couldn’t do it.” Stone parted ways with Trump last year, but continues to serve as an adviser and advocate.
Similarly, fired campaign manager Corey Lewandowski is still an unofficial part of the ratpack, reportedly helping prep Trump for debates. Lewandowski is the one who manhandled then-Breitbart reporter Michele Fields, grabbing her so hard she had a bruise on her forearm (a charge of battery was later dropped.) A Politico investigation “found complaints…about Lewandowski being rough with reporters and sexually suggestive with female journalists,” and that he publicly berated a female co-worker with the “C-word.” That word comes up a lot in reporting on this group.
Then there’s Trump himself. He and two of his top surrogates, Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich, have nine wives among them, and each are infamous for particular callousness in the way they dropped one wife for the next. Lewandowski, Stone, and Bannon have nothing on Trump when it comes to a well-known history of sexist comments, which was documented so ably by Fox’s Megyn Kelly that Trump came up with the ultimate in misogynistic insults, with his “blood coming out of her wherever” jab. Just this week, he took another sexist swing at Clinton herself: “Does she look presidential, fellas? Give me a break.”
So serial sexual harasser Roger Ailes fits well on the team. Kellyanne Conway has taken pains to say the predatory former news mogul is not on staff. “He obviously has no formal or informal role with the campaign, but Mr. Trump speaks to many different people,” she told CNN’s State of the Union last week. It’s hard not to feel a tinge of sympathy for Conway, playing the classic woman’s role of cleaning up after men. But she’s a veteran GOP operative and she knew what she signed up for. Unfortunately for her, women voters know, too, and her attempt to hang nice curtains in the windows of Trump’s sexist campaign clubhouse will fail—with or without the help of the appalling Roger Ailes.