Donald Trump, frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, has yet again grabbed the spotlight from his fellow competitors. Following last Thursday’s debate, Trump disparaged FOX News host Megyn Kelly for asking him what he felt were unfair questions, ones designed to attack.
“You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever,” Trump said to CNN’s Don Lemon on Friday regarding Kelly’s line of questioning that called the candidate to task for using words like “pigs,” “dogs” and “slobs” to describe women.
Trump later said he was referring to her nose and ears, not to her menstrual cycle, as some have alleged. He then stated that Kelly should be the one to offer up an apology for Thursday night’s conflict.
“I certainly will not apologize for doing good journalism,” Kelly responded on her show. “So I’ll continue doing my job without fear or favor.”
Remarkably, Trump remains strong in the polls. A recent Morning Consult poll of self-identified Republicans and GOP-leaning independents has him winning 32% of the Republican primary vote, up 7 points from the group’s last poll. However, many local LGBT pundits and political figures believe Trump’s verbal onslaught is merely a smokescreen meant to distract from serious issues.
“His attempt at inflammatory remarks might work on reality shows, but I’m beginning to wonder if he’s purposely trying to distract the media, and perhaps voters, from his lack of substance,” says Rea Carey, executive director of the LGBT Task Force. “Like other smart voters in this country who are women, they’re more interested in candidates’ policy stances and what they’re going to do for the country, than their juvenile and anti-woman remarks.”
“I want to say that it’s typical sexist bullshit, but I think it’s actually typical Trump bullshit,” says Tiffany Joslyn, former president of the Virginia Partisans. “When anyone challenges him, he takes it personally. He’s like, ‘Poor me. Somebody’s asking me a hard question.’ He can’t defend his record or explain himself, because he doesn’t have the record. He’s basically like an actor, putting on a performance.”
Carey also supports Kelly’s line of questioning during the debate. “She was doing her job as a journalist. And, again, I think he is trying, for some reason, to distract from a lack of concrete policy ideas that we would expect all candidates to have. I’ve found that on a number of occasions, and on that occasion in particular, just how out of touch and anti-woman he is. It makes him sound like a man from another century.”
Jessica Pierce, treasurer of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, agrees, calling Kelly’s questions “completely valid,” given the style of the debate and the adversarial nature that moderators are almost obliged to have with candidates.
“I don’t think she was stepping out of line, or asking him something he couldn’t answer,” Pierce says. “And his response was completely characteristic of what we see from him in this campaign — he is an equal opportunist when it comes to offending everybody outside of upper-middle-class straight white men. So it was not surprising, because Megyn Kelly is a woman.”
Pierce called Trump’s “bleeding” comment “ridiculous” but also instructive in that he went for a cheap shot. But to Pierce, the bigger issue may be the reaction Trump got when he tried to dismiss Kelly’s questioning during the debate, joking that lesbian comic Rosie O’Donnell was the only one he had called a “pig” and a “slob.”
“I think it goes to another element of what is scary about the GOP candidates,” she says. “It’s not just about them being bad on race issues, or about issues of the working class, or on LGBT issues, or women’s health issues. It’s literally that if you are anything outside the majority of people who were cheering and chanting back in that moment, then you are not somebody who they’re interested in representing.”
Other locals said the debate was just a show of Republicans doubling down on the most hardline of positions, whether on LGBT rights, women’s rights, opposition to exceptions for abortion, or opposition to government in general.
“What struck me the most was how completely off the rails the RNC has gone with this crop of candidates,” says Dana Beyer, who adds the GOP has appeared to learn nothing from their 2012 primary debacle. “A lot of this is just bluster and pandering to the Tea Party base. They know they need to moderate their positions on immigration and women for the general election, but nobody seems willing to position themselves towards the center. It’s surprising, because Republicans are usually so good at showing restraint.”
“The amazing thing about the debate is they didn’t talk about any substantive issues,” says Earl Fowlkes, president of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club. “When you pull back the curtain and the biggest issue being discussed is where Megyn Kelly is bleeding from, it…demonstrates what the Republicans are so good at — pick some emotional issue to focus on and keep talking about that, but forget about the real solutions needed to turn things around.”
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