President Trump has spent a good portion of the last 24 hours arguing he doesn’t use racial slurs. And in the course of doing it, he used a sexist one.
Trump’s Twitter feed, as House Speaker Paul D. Ryan will gladly tell you, is meant to troll -- to say something highly controversial while carving out enough gray area to allow his ardent supporters to defend him and argue the media is overblowing it. But sometimes it’s abundantly clear he knows exactly what he’s doing. And his tweet Tuesday morning about Omarosa Manigault Newman being a “dog” was clearly in that vein. There’s just no way this was innocent.
Here’s the tweet:
“When you give a crazed, crying lowlife a break, and give her a job at the White House, I guess it just didn’t work out,” Trump said. “Good work by General Kelly for quickly firing that dog!”
As most any devoted Trump supporter will tell you (and did tell me Tuesday morning on Twitter), Trump has likened all kinds of people to animals, including dogs. He likes to invoke the word “dog” while attacking his opponents, including upon their terminations." As NBC News catalogues:
In June 2016, he slammed Mitt Romney for having “choked like a dog” in the 2012 presidential race. Earlier that year, he blasted former NBC News journalist David Gregory for having been “fired like a dog,” and said the same about conservative commentator Erick Erickson after he left the RedState blog. He’s used the word to insult Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Glenn Beck and NBC News' Chuck Todd.
Those are all, notably, men. So just as Trump supporters have fought back against the idea that Trump disproportionately labels black people “dumb” or “stupid” by pointing to all the times he did the same with white people -- nevermind that 13 of the last 22 have been black -- they can point to all the times Trump also likened men to dogs. It’s just what he does! He’s an equal opportunity offender!
But Trump knows better. It’s basically impossible to believe he didn’t know how this tweet would be interpreted. And that’s not just because he’s a 72-year-old man; it’s also because his use of the term “dog” and other similar references to women’s appearances were a big issue in the 2016 campaign.
Trump had previously called Rosie O’Donnell a “fat pig” and a “slob.” He called both a lawyer doing a deposition of him and Bette Midler “disgusting." And as for the d-word, he used that on both Arianna Huffington (“a dog”) and New York Times columnist Gail Collins (“face like a dog”).
In fact, Trump’s first big moment on a 2016 debate stage was when he was asked about these past comments, and he defended them as simply being politically incorrect. The best defense here is that Trump simply doesn’t remember this whole thing, which would be an indictment of him in and of itself.
Trump wants this discussion. He wants the attention. He wants to be seen as being a bare-knuckle brawler with his opponents. He wants the media to overreact in his supporters' eyes. It’s all part of his M.O. And his supporters like it.
But that’s different than arguing that what he tweeted Tuesday morning wasn’t meant to be a sexist slur against Manigault Newman. The evidence is too overwhelming, and the pattern is too clear — both in Trump’s comments about women and his clear tendency to troll on Twitter.