Editor’s Note: Jill Filipovic is a journalist based in New York and author of the book “The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness.” Follow her on Twitter. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely her own. View more opinion articles on CNN.
Lisa Page has had enough. The President of the United States has spent two years smearing her, turning her into an emblem of the supposed “Deep State” that is out to get him and undermine his presidency.
Trump and his band of sycophants, both in elected office and the right-wing media, have painted Page as a homewrecker and a traitor – the former for her private affair (the GOP critique of this, given the instances of infidelity and scandal in its own ranks, is rich, by the way) and the latter simply because she privately expressed distaste for the President.
These hypocrites have turned a once-anonymous government lawyer into a symbol of everything they hate. The President and his allies ruined her life. She’s finally telling her side of the story in an article in the Daily Beast.
Let’s be clear: You can believe that Page made poor decisions in her personal life and is wrong in her political opinions and still conclude that the President’s behavior is inexcusable harassment, far below the dignity of his office. It is in fact a national disgrace.
Page’s name has barely stayed out of the President’s mouth since texts sent in 2015 and 2016 between her and colleague Peter Strzok were published in 2017. The affair between the two was not a commendable decision, but hardly one of national interest, especially given the President’s own history of extramarital affairs and sexual assault allegations (which he denies) – and in the course of their text messages, both expressed concern about a potential Trump presidency. The texts also criticized a variety of Democrats, including former Attorney General Eric Holder, Chelsea Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
While partisan political activity is not allowed for FBI employees, holding and privately expressing political opinions certainly is – anything less would violate the First Amendment. Sending disparaging texts about a political candidate to a lover may suggest a bias that warrants removal from an investigation of the subject of said texts, but it hardly justifies sustained public humiliation from the President of the United States.
And yet that’s what Page has gotten.
Trump has a history here: He is remarkably thin-skinned, going after anyone who critiques him, but women seem to draw a particular brand of ire. They are “nasty,” he says over and over. He obsesses over their sexuality, their sexiness (or alleged lack of it) and their sex lives. Trump goes after anyone’s perceived weakness, and it’s clear that, for women, he believes femaleness itself is a failing.
His supporters are only too happy to follow suit. Just look at the smearing of Page as a “homewrecker.” Strzok was party to the affair, too, but where has he been shamed the way Page has?
Recall that Trump himself (and very publicly) cheated on and humiliated his first wife – the mother of three of his children. Women who have affairs, his supporters suggest, are immoral and untrustworthy. Men who have them, well – they’re just men.
There’s a name for this double standard: Misogyny.
It’s not news that the President is a sexist. From bragging about grabbing women by the genitals to cobbling together an overwhelmingly male administration, this President has shown time and again that he disdains women personally and professionally. It’s so pervasive that it’s easy to get used to.
We can’t do that. It’s shocking and appalling that Trump continues to single out a federal employee for abuse and harassment because she criticized him via text. It should be an absolute scandal that he acts out a mock orgasm between Page and Strzok in front of a cheering, jeering crowd. This behavior on the part of the President is a national humiliation. It should be disqualifying.
In the grand scheme of Trump wrongdoing, his attacks on Page are relatively small – and that in itself is a disturbing tell. No man should be able to occupy higher office and behave with such rank chauvinism toward women.
There are a million reasons to get Trump out of office in 2020. His misogyny may not top the list – breaking the law and compromising American national security takes that vaunted spot – but never again can a man this sneering and sexist occupy the Oval Office.