If you run for President, your entire adult life becomes fair game for journalistic scrutiny.
Quite frankly, I would have thought that was the kind of entirely obvious thing that wouldn’t have needed saying. Candidates for the most powerful political position in the world waive any claim that their personal histories are not worthy matters for investigation and possible reporting. If you have peccadilloes you’d prefer nobody find out about, then throwing your hat into the biggest electoral ring in the country isn’t for you. (If you happen to have been paying attention at the time, perhaps you’ll recall the Important Question of whether or not Bill Clinton “inhaled” when he was in college.)
And so it is with Mr. Donald Trump. In case you hadn’t noticed, the real estate mogul, reality star and all-around swell guy is running for President of the United States. He is, at present, doing rather well in the polls.
Two days ago, The Daily Beast ran a story about an allegation made against Trump by his former wife Ivana during their divorce proceedings. As detailed in a biography published in 1993, she stated that one night in 1989 he became enraged at her and, by her description, raped her. Though she tried to soften the term in a later statement, she did not dispute the actual facts as stated, and still used the word “violated” to describe what transpired.
When the reporters from The Daily Beast reached out for comment from Trump’s camp, they were put in touch with a lawyer named Michael Cohen. In the course of their conversation, he not only threatened them in incredibly graphic ways, but denied that there was even such a thing as spousal rape.
Let’s just pause with that for a moment. The person the Trump campaign provided for comment responded to questions with threats and a blatantly incorrect legal opinion about rape. That is the level of prudence and probity we are dealing with when discussing the candidacy of Donald Trump.
Since the story ran, it has dominated much of the subsequent news cycle. Trump has responded in his usual thoughtful, considered manner. He’s tried to create some daylight between himself and his lawyer, but I happen to think the candidate has to own the comments his lackey provides when speaking on behalf of said candidate.
What’s striking to me is that, by way of trying to delegitimize the story, both Megyn Kelly and Joe Scarborough asked Tim Mak (one of the story’s authors) why the subject was relevant in the first place. Both seemed to suggest that all manner of inflammatory things are said during divorce proceedings, and that there was nothing worth covering about Ivana’s allegations from years ago.
At this point I should disavow any claim to neutrality. The Daily Beast runs my writing on a consistent basis, a fact that makes me nothing but happy. (On that note, this post does not in any way represent the editorial opinions of anyone at that publication, and was not written on their behest. I am speaking for nobody but myself.) Furthermore, though I have never met Tim, the article’s other author Brandy Zadrozny is someone I have not only met, but consider a personal friend. I am unambiguously on #TeamDailyBeast here.
But having said that, on what planet is something included in an easily-available biography of a man who was already a very famous figure at the time of the alleged events somehow not relevant for discussion when the subject decides to run for President? No matter what Donald or Ivana have said since, she made the statements as reported in sworn testimony, and it speaks very much to his character then and now. The lighter-fluid-on-a-brushfire nature of the lawyer’s threats and comments only make the article more relevant, but even without them the subject is in-bounds.
Candidates for high office cannot redact their own histories and put blinders on reporters. They can’t. An argument can be made for childhood incidents to remain off the record, I’ll grant. But from legal majority onward, if you don’t want people investigating your life, don’t make a play for votes.
[Photo by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons]