SOUTHAVEN, Miss. — President Trump mocked the account of a woman who accused Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh of assault and told a Mississippi crowd that the #MeToo movement was unfairly hurting men.
“ ‘I don’t know. I don’t know.’ ‘Upstairs? Downstairs? Where was it?’ ‘I don’t know. But I had one beer. That’s the only thing I remember,’ ” Trump said of Ford, as he impersonated her on stage.
“I don’t remember,” he said repeatedly, apparently mocking her testimony.
Ford has said the incident happened in an upstairs room and that she is “100 percent” certain it was Kavanaugh who assaulted her, although she has acknowledged that her memories of other details of the evening remain unclear.
Trump then told the crowd that men were going to be fired from their jobs after being unfairly accused of sexual harassment. Trump himself has been accused of harassment by many women and has been caught on tape bragging about groping women.
“Think of your husbands. Think of your sons,” Trump told the crowd.
He said that Kavanaugh’s life was “in tatters” and urged the crowd to think about his family. And in an apparent swipe at all of Kavanaugh’s accusers, he declared: “These are really evil people.”
In a tweet after the rally, Michael Bromwich, an attorney for Ford, called Trump’s remarks “a vicious, vile and soulless attack” on his client.
“Is it any wonder that she was terrified to come forward, and that other sexual assault survivors are as well? She is a remarkable profile in courage. He is a profile in cowardice,” Bromwich said.
Trump made the remarks at a freewheeling rally that comes as the FBI investigates allegations that the Supreme Court nominee sexually assaulted female students while in high school and college.
In her testimony last week, Ford told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her decades ago when they were both teenagers. Kavanaugh has angrily denied the allegations.
Trump had previously refrained from attacking Ford personally, although he sent a tweet last month in which he questioned why Ford or her parents had not “immediately” filed charges with local law enforcement after the alleged incident.
Tuesday’s attack could further inflame tensions in the pitched battle over Kavanaugh’s confirmation — and alienate moderate key votes like Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).
Trump had no words of comfort for women like Ford who say they were attacked, raped or sexually assaulted.
Trump’s aides have repeatedly urged him not to take on Ford, saying there is no benefit.
Trump has grown increasingly frustrated with the Kavanaugh drama, aides say, and sees it as key to the midterms.
The president lavished praise on Kavanaugh at the rally, and the crowd responded with similar enthusiasm, breaking out into chants of, “We want Kavanaugh! We want Kavanaugh!”
But Trump also seemed to distance himself from his own nominee, even as he told the crowd he needed their support to get him through.
“I don’t even know him. I met him for the first time a few weeks ago. It’s not like I want to protect my friend,” Trump said.
Speaking for more than an hour, Trump touched on several of his favorite topics, including his new trade deal with Canada and Mexico, the crowd size at his events and the state of the economy.
He also mocked Democrats as acting “holier than thou” and focused on several potential 2020 presidential contenders by name, including former vice president Joe Biden, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). At one point, he also appeared to suggest that one Senate Democrat drinks too much, offering no proof for his attacks but urging the crowd to Google the senator’s name.
Trump was visiting Mississippi to rally support for Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) ahead of the November election. Hyde-Smith, the state’s first female senator, was appointed to succeed longtime Sen. Thad Cochran (R), who resigned in April amid health concerns. She faces three opponents in the nonpartisan special election for the remaining two years of Cochran’s term: Republican Chris McDaniel and Democrats Mike Espy and Tobey Bartee.
Espy, if elected, would become the first black senator to represent Mississippi since shortly after the Civil War.
Trump threw his support behind Hyde-Smith in August, declaring in a tweet that she had helped him “put America First!” If no candidate earns more than 50 percent of the vote on Nov. 6, the top two vote-getters will advance to a runoff on Nov. 27.
The rally was Trump’s second of four this week, part of a final campaign push with a little over one month to go until the midterms. He heads to Minnesota on Thursday and Kansas on Saturday.
Earlier Tuesday night, the New York Times published a bombshell report detailing how Trump received hundreds of millions of dollars from his father’s real estate empire, undercutting the image Trump has long crafted of himself as a self-made man. Much of the money was funneled by Fred Trump to his children through the use of shell companies and other schemes that allowed him to avoid paying taxes on it, the Times reported.
Trump made no mention of the story during the rally. But the event’s start was slightly delayed until just after White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a statement pushing back on the article and suggesting that the newspaper should apologize for its reporting.
“Fred Trump has been gone for nearly twenty years and it’s sad to witness this misleading attack against the Trump family by the failing New York Times. Many decades ago the IRS reviewed and signed off on these transactions,” Sanders said in the statement, which did not cite any specifics of the report.
The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance said Tuesday evening that it is reviewing the allegations in the article and “vigorously pursuing all appropriate avenues of investigation.”
Sonmez reported from Washington.