During the Republican presidential debates, Fox News host Megyn Kelly asked Donald Trump a series of relatively tame questions about the candidate’s infamous remarks on women. “You’ve called women you don’t like fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals,” Kelly said to Trump during the Thursday night debate. Trump countered that he had only called Rosie O’Donnell names; the crowd laughed, enjoying a cheap shot at O’Donnell.
While Trump’s shot at O’Donnell was just a good old joke, the candidate raised the ire of conservatives last night when, during a phone interview with CNN, he took an equally despicable shot at Megyn Kelly. “She gets out and she starts asking me all sorts of ridiculous questions,” Trump said. “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever. In my opinion, she was off base.”
Trump’s comment—a lame period joke that’s a familiar method of discrediting women as hysterical creatures beholden to hormones and emotion—was a line too far for conservatives. Erick Erickson, commenter and blogger for the conservative website RedState, disinvited Trump from an upcoming event, ostensibly appalled at Trump’s sexism. Erickson’s decision was applauded by South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham who called Trump’s comments “not worthy of the office he seeks.”
The conservative outrage seems somewhat arbitrary, Trump has been saying vile things about women for years, and it’s not as if Erickson himself is a particular crusader for equality (this is the man who calls Wendy Davis “abortion Barbie”). But Kelly is one of their own, she (or her brand) embodies many of the social values that conservatives hold near and dear—an attack on Kelly is a fundamental attack on the morals Erickson, Graham, and others touted as fundamental to the stability of the Republic.
Though Trump deserves to be disinvited and shunned, this outrage feels arbitrary. Why is a period joke worse than, say, Marco Rubio or Scott Walker’s belief that no exception abortion is moral? Why is a period joke worse than calling Rosie O’Donnell fat or calling a woman “disgusting” because she had the nerve to breastfeed? Why is this worse than calling Mexican immigrants “rapists”?
Perhaps it’s because the Republican party had a very ugly realization. Namely that if Trump speaks a certain truth—as John Kasich claimed during the debates—or that his bold honesty reveals the restless id of the base, then that base revels in pits so repulsive, and holds fast to “truths” so vile, that they might be more dangerous to unraveling conservative ideology than any mere Democrat.
In a statement issued this morning, Trump called Erickson a “total loser” who has a “history of supporting failed campaigns so it is an honor to be uninvited from this event.”
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