Press: For Trump endorsement: The more sordid, the better

Getty Images

Republicans should have learned their lessons in December 2017, during the U.S. Senate special election in Alabama. Endorsed by President Trump, incumbent Luther Strange, appointed to fill the seat formerly held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, lost in the Republican primary to Roy Moore. Whereupon three women accused Moore of sexual misconduct that occurred while they were in their teens.

But that didn’t bother Trump. He’d been accused of sexual assault by at least 25 women since the 1970s. He wasn’t going to hold Roy Moore to any higher standard. Trump enthusiastically switched his endorsement from Strange to Moore — who lost to Doug Jones, the first Democrat elected senator from Alabama in 25 years. Trump lost two in a row.

Lessons not learned? One, Donald Trump’s endorsement may not be as valuable as it seems. Two, as long as a candidate agrees that Trump won the 2020 election, any accusation of sexual misconduct is no obstacle to getting Trump’s endorsement. 

That’s exactly what’s playing out in three Senate races this year. Starting with Pennsylvania, where Trump endorsed Sean Parnell in the Republican primary, even though Parnell was already in the middle of an ugly divorce battle where his wife claimed Parnell had physically abused both her and their children.

Prudence would dictate waiting to see how things played out, but Trump’s not a prudent man. Reportedly egged on by favorite son Donald Jr., who has the political astuteness of a flea, Trump rushed into an early endorsement of Parnell, only to be monumentally embarrassed last week, when Parnell, having lost joint custody of his kids in the divorce case, dropped out of the race.

A similar scenario’s heating up in Georgia with Trump’s endorsement of former NFL star Herschel Walker. In filing for divorce in 2002, Walker’s wife accused him of “physically abusive and extremely threatening behavior” — including pointing a pistol at her head and saying “I’m going to blow your f—king brains out.” Should a history of violence and sexual abuse disqualify you from serving in the United States Senate? Some Georgia Republicans think so. But not Donald Trump.

And then there’s Missouri, where former Gov. Eric Greitens is trying to make a political comeback by running for the Senate seat vacated by the retiring Republican Sen. Roy Blunt. Greitens resigned as governor in 2018 after admitting to an extramarital affair with his hairdresser. An independent panel of state legislators found that Greitens had coerced the woman into performing oral sex, physically abused her, and warned her he’d post naked photos of her online if she didn’t keep quiet.

Greitens is working hard to win Trump’s endorsement. He’s made the obligatory pilgrimage to Mar-A-Lago to kiss Trump’s  ring. He’s hired Trump’s pollster, Tony Fabrizio. He’s lined up Rudy Giuliani’s endorsement. And he’s hired Kimberly Guilfoyle, Donald Jr.’s girlfriend, as his national campaign chair. So far, Trump hasn’t endorsed. But he hasn’t said no, either.

Not so long ago, any evidence of sexual abuse would disqualify you from serving in the United States Senate. In 1995, Senate Republicans forced Bob Packwood to resign after staffers accused him of sexual abuse, even though Republican leaders knew a Democrat might take his seat. It was either “retain the Senate seat or retain our honor,” Ethics Committee Chairman Mitch McConnell piously said at the time.

But that was before serial sexual predator Donald Trump poisoned the well. Now a history of sexual abuse is no problem for a Republican Senate candidate. It may even be an advantage — at least for getting Trump’s endorsement.

Press is host of “The Bill Press Pod.” He is author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”

Tags Donald Trump doug jones Jeff Sessions Kimberly Guilfoyle Luther Strange Mitch McConnell Roy Blunt Roy Moore Rudy Giuliani Sexual abuse Sexual misconduct Trump endorsement

More Campaign News

See All
See all Hill.TV See all Video