Back in the Republican primary, Donald Trump seemed to pretty clearly make a derogatory reference to Carly Fiorina's looks, even as he denied it.
“Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?” Trump said in a Rolling Stone interview. “I mean, she's a woman, and I’m not s'posedta say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?”
He may be at it again.
At three different junctures in the last two days, Trump has appeared to walk right up to the line of criticizing his female critics' appearances without explicitly doing so. In two cases, it was Hillary Clinton, and on Thursday, it was one of the women accusing him of unwanted sexual advances.
First, at a rally in Florida on Wednesday, Trump was talking about the Clinton campaign emails released by WikiLeaks, and he seemed like he was about to call Clinton “unattractive and dishonest” before pausing a beat and applying those labels to the United States instead. But calling the country “unattractive and dishonest” didn't really make sense, in context.
Here's the full quote:
The Hillary Clinton documents — have you been seeing this, what’s going on? — released by WikiLeaks make more clear than ever just how much is at stake in November and how unattractive and dishonest [SLIGHT PAUSE] our country has become. The election of Hillary Clinton would lead, in my opinion, to the almost total destruction of our country, as we know it. She would be the most dishonest and the most corrupt person ever elected to office.
And here's the video:
— POLITICO (@politico) October 12, 2016
The passage was clearly about Clinton and her documents. Trump even applies the word “dishonest” directly to Clinton two sentences later. But he attributes the “unattractive and dishonest” description to “our country,” for some reason.
Later in the day, Trump again turned to Clinton and allegations that he had been crowding her space in the second presidential debate on Sunday. Trump dismissed it by suggesting he doesn't want to be near Clinton.
“Believe me, the last space that I want to invade is her space,” he said, as the crowd laughed.
And on Thursday, Trump implored people to “look at her” when referring to one of his new accusers — a People magazine writer, Natasha Stoynoff, who has accused Trump of forcing himself upon her.
“Take a look. You take a look. Look at her. Look at her words. You tell me what you think,” Trump said. “I don’t think so. I don't think so.”
To be sure, none of these were a clear and explicit reference to the women's looks. And in each case, Trump would attribute suggestions that they were to a media that is anxious to take him down.
But there is also a pattern of behavior here that is impossible to overlook. And it's not just with Fiorina earlier this year. As BuzzFeed's Chris Geidner noted Thursday night, Trump in 1994 offered a more explicit attack on the looks of another reporter who he said lied about him.
"The woman’s a liar, extremely unattractive, lots of problems because of her looks." - Donald Trump, 1994
— Chris Geidner (@chrisgeidner) October 14, 2016
Here's the full exchange from the 1994 interview, which the Hollywood Reporter dug up on Thursday:
So why in 1992 did you tell a writer for New York magazine, Marie Brenner, that ‘You have to treat women like s***” — ultimately pouring a bottle of wine down her back?
I didn’t say that. The woman’s a liar, extremely unattractive, lots of problems because of her looks.
In 1998, while defending Bill Clinton from the accusers that Trump now tells us should be believed, he also labeled the women “unattractive.”
“The whole group — Paula Jones, Lewinsky — it’s just a really unattractive group,” Trump said at the time, as Medaite noted this week. “I’m not just talking about physical.”
Trump suggesting his accusers are unattractive, as if that proves he wouldn't hit on them, echoes his defense of Bill Clinton in 90s. TBT
— Jackie Calmes (@calmesnyt) October 13, 2016
There's Rosie O'Donnell, whom Trump has regularly feuded with and whom he, in a 2006 interview with “Entertainment Tonight,” labeled unattractive — “both inside and out.”
“We're all a little chubby, Rosie is just a little worse than most of us,” Trump said. “But it's not just the chubbiness. Rosie is a very unattractive person, both inside and out.”
And there's also Trump's Bette Midler tweet from 2012, which also uses the word “unattractive.”
While @BetteMidler is an extremely unattractive woman, I refuse to say that because I always insist on being politically correct.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 28, 2012
The total picture is one of a man who hasn't been afraid to make direct or veiled references to the idea that women who run afoul of him are “unattractive” — and he has often used that exact word, as he did Wednesday. He has also used this defense to suggest that sexual misconduct accusers shouldn't be believed, in the case of Bill Clinton.
Trump's comments in recent days are certainly more on the opaque side, but it's hard to escape that history — which, in the case of Fiorina, wasn't even that long ago.
Update, 3:30 p.m. ET: Trump "suggested several times Friday that he would not have sexually harassed the women who have accused him of assault because of their physical attractiveness," reported Jose DelReal from a campaign rally in Greensboro, N.C.
"Believe me, she would not be my first choice, that I can tell you," Trump said, referring to one alleged victim. "You don’t know. That would not be my first choice."
Trump was in that instance referring to Jessica Leeds, who accused Trump of putting his hand up her skirt on an airplane decades ago. Her story, which was first recounted in the New York Times, is one of a half dozen allegations that have been made in recent days.
He added later, in a sing-song voice: "When you looked at that horrible woman last night, you said, 'I don't think so.'"
Trump mocked another woman, former People Magazine reporter Natasha Stoynoff, who accused Trump of sexually assaulting her in 2005 while she interviewed him for a story. Trump's wife, Melania, was pregnant at the time and had left them to change clothes.
"Check out her Facebook, you'll understand,” Trump told the crowd, which laughed.
He also appeared to take another swipe at his opponent:
Donald Trump on Hillary Clinton at debate: "And when she walked in front of me, believe me, I wasn't impressed"
— Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) October 14, 2016