President Donald Trump got something of a softball from CBS News’ Steven Portnoy at his press conference in New York Wednesday: What’s your message to the young men of America?
It was a softball because the single most obvious message a President could issue to young men right now is to respect women.
But Trump went in a wildly different direction, arguing the US is in a dark period as women come forward to say they’ve been assaulted.
For context, this is the question Portnoy asked:
Portnoy: “About the hearing tomorrow, you were asked earlier by my friend from Sky News about the message that you are sending the women of the country. What about the message that you may be sending to young men? You’re a father. What does this moment we’re in, the cultural moment…”
Trump: “It’s a very big cultural moment.”
Portnoy: “Right, so what message do you have for the young men of America?”
The big cultural moment is the #MeToo movement, along with the outpouring of women coming forward to share stories of harassment and assault.
The President, however, did not give the easy answer. Instead, he told them they could be next.
Complaining that his Supreme Court nominee is accused of sexual assault and reliving his own anger at the many allegations levied against him over the years and during the presidential campaign, Trump returned to the idea he put forward earlier in the news conference that all of these allegations against him and Kavanaugh are, respectively, part of a “big fat con job.”
It was in that earlier question by the Sky News reporter that Trump said calling something a “con job” really wasn’t that bad and he’s said worse in the past.
Trump pointed at Portnoy and said, “I could have you chosen for a position … and somebody could say things. And it’s happened to me, many times, where false statements are made and honestly, nobody knows who to believe.”
He didn’t stop there.
“I could pick another Supreme Court judge, justice. I could pick another one, another one, another one. This could go on forever. Somebody could come and say 30 years ago, 25 years ago, 10 years ago, five years ago he did a horrible thing to me. He did this, he did that, he did this, he did that. And honestly, it’s a very dangerous period in our country.”
He said the dangerous time is “being perpetrated by some very evil people, some of whom are Democrats, I must say.”
“It’s a game that they’re playing,” he said. “It’s a con game at the highest level.”
Trump said there’s a danger some candidates might not want to even be nominated for the Supreme Court after seeing what’s happened to the “wonderful man” Brett Kavanaugh.
It’s bigger than the court, though, according to Trump.
“This is beyond Supreme Court. This is everything to do with our country. When you are guilty until proven innocent, it’s just not supposed to be that way,” Trump said.
“Always I’ve heard you’re innocent until proven guilty. I’ve heard this so long. It’s such a beautiful phrase. In this case, you’re guilty until proven innocent. I think that is a very dangerous standard for our country.”
Then Trump said all that being said, he looks forward to hearing what both Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford have to say during testimony Thursday.
Portnoy tried to get him to give a more specific message to young men, but Trump ended the press conference.
He didn’t really need to say more. The message Trump delivered to young men is this: Be afraid.
Which is not as good a message as don’t assault women.
Trump actually sort of predicted the last question would be a difficult one for him when, just before allowing Portnoy to ask it.
“Elton John said when you hit that last tune and it’s good, don’t go back. I’ve seen, have you ever seen, they do great, they hit the last tune and everyone goes crazy, then they go back for an encore, alright? And they don’t hit it. And they leave - everyone leaves and they say that wasn’t a very good concert.”
“Let’s go,” Trump told Portnoy. “Don’t make me wrong.”