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.”