Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

Opinion: A basic disrespect for women


Back in the early ‘90s, a magazine profile of Donald Trump quoted his advice about how to handle troublesome women.

“You have to treat ‘em like (human excrement),” Trump had allegedly said.

In 1994, when asked about the quote by ABC News, Trump vehemently denied it and attacked the person who reported it. “The woman’s a liar, extremely unattractive, lots of problems because of her looks,” Trump said.

This is what Trump says next, according to the transcript:

“People say, ‘How can you say such a thing?’ but there’s a truth in it, in a modified form. Psychologists will tell you that some women want to be treated with respect; others differently. I tell friends who treat their wives magnificently, get treated like crap in return: ‘Be rougher and you’ll see a different relationship.’“

“Be rougher and you’ll see a different relationship.’“

It wasn’t just talk. One night, Trump spotted a reporter by the name of Marie Brenner, eating at a famous New York restaurant. Brenner had written unfavorably about Trump, so as Trump later bragged to reporters and others, he walked up behind Brenner and poured a bottle of red wine down her back, right in the middle of the restaurant. (By Brenner’s account, it had been a glass of red wine -- the bottle was Trump’s exaggeration.)

In fact, it turns out that assault by red wine was a Trump specialty. In other interviews, he bragged about doing something similar to the late Leona Helmsley at a New York dinner party. "I don't take it back and I hope Leona didn't get overly wet,” he told The New York Times. “I hope the dress she was wearing wasn't an expensive one, though that's not likely.”

Trump, a non-drinker, was then asked whether his choice of red wine over white wine had been deliberate. "Yes,” he said. “White's not nearly as effective."

There is no recorded instance of Trump dumping drinks on men.

We have now learned that under President Trump, his administration knowingly employed a serial wife-beater in one of the most sensitive jobs in government. Two ex-wives of former White House secretary Rob Porter told the FBI more than a year ago about the physical and emotional abuse that they endured; nothing was done. A third woman, a former girlfriend, apparently called the White House itself to warn of Porter’s behavior.

One of the ex-wives has produced a photograph of her battered face, which she gave the FBI. The second has revealed a protective court order granted against Porter. Both cite witnesses who were told of the abuse in the time frame it was occurring.

The response from the White House has been one of regret.

Not regret that these women suffered such abuse. Not regret that it had kept Porter on despite knowledge of the claims against him. Just regret that Porter was forced to leave.

In fact, this has been the extent of Trump’s public response:


With anyone else, the standard move in managing a scandal like this would be to put Trump in front of a camera, where he would reverse course by expressing deep sympathy for victims of abuse as well as regret for not handling the Porter case well. That’s not an option for this White House, because as we’ve seen in the past, Trump doesn’t do well when expressing regret he does not feel.

In such cases, supposed regret comes off as resentment, and insincerity pours from him. You might say it pours from him like red wine from a bottle, staining all it touches.


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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.