Here’s what we can say after a thorough review of Trump’s public remarks, media reports and social media accounts: He has applied this label to many of his female opponents, but he has applied it to lots of men, too. Slightly more, actually. It’s a phrase he very often reaches for in response to obvious or perceived slights.
Here’s a list of women who have drawn the label since Trump launched his 2016 campaign:
The number of women on this list is fewer than the number of men to whom Trump has applied the label. On that list are (surprise!) many of his top 2016 GOP primary opponents:
- Marco Rubio
- Ted Cruz
- Lindsey O. Graham
- Mitt Romney
- Texas. Gov. Greg Abbott
- Former Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta
- London Mayor Sadiq Khan
- Fox News pundit Juan Williams
- Evangelical leader Russell Moore
- New York Times columnist Tom Friedman
- CNN’s David Gregory
- MSNBC’s Donny Deutsch
- The late conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer
- New York City union leader John Cody
- Former business associate Jack O’Donnell
- An unnamed male TV columnist who gave “The Apprentice” a poor review
- Osama bin Laden
(Not that anybody would begrudge that last one.)
There have been a couple of other times when Trump has used the word “nasty” in reference to men — but in a positive way. These include while reminiscing about the 2016 campaign with foes-turned-allies such as Rick Perry and Scott Walker. Trump has also called the late general George Patton, national security adviser John Bolton and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker “nasty,” but has done so admiringly.
So what’s the takeaway here? There are obviously slightly more men than women, so you could argue that Trump is an equal-opportunity “nasty” labeler. He seems to have few qualms about attaching the label to basically anybody he’s pitted against, and the fact that it is used so frequently against his campaign opponents is telling. Clinton made “nasty woman” a rallying cry when Trump said it in a debate late in the campaign, but Trump used the word even more often while talking about some of his GOP primary opponents — wielding it multiple times against some of them, including Rubio and Cruz.
Trump has a well-documented habit of describing women in gendered and degrading ways (here’s one lengthy compilation of ways he has done that both before and since his political career began). That context is important to understanding why there is typically more outrage when he uses “nasty” to defend himself against perceived slights by women.
Politics is still a business that is dominated by men. Congress is more than three-quarters male — similar to the breakdown of all politicians worldwide — and more than 60 percent of all world leaders are male. As president of the United States, Trump is coming into contact with many more men than women, and yet the numbers of people he has described as nasty are similar across both sexes. That could be sheer coincidence and circumstance, or it could say something about how much more Trump is taken aback when women say things he doesn’t like.
Trump also has an almost insatiable desire to provoke, and using “nasty” on women has proved to be a great way to ruffle feathers.