Ride or die.
Support The Bulwark.
  Join Now

Team Trump’s Gross Exploitation of Tara Reade

The people who spent years covering up for Trump’s serial sexual impropriety have something to say to Tara Reade. We don’t need to listen to them.
May 5, 2020
Featured Image
(GettyImages)

Some people are entirely disqualified from any serious discussion of the allegations of sexual misconduct against Joe Biden. Namely, anyone associated with President Donald J. Trump. Working for Trump means you have to be willing to snuff out all the allegations against him.

Over the past week, lots of Trump surrogates—from campaign manager Brad Parscale to daughter-in-law Lara Trump to communications guru Mercedes Schlapp—have tried to capitalize on the allegations lodged by Tara Reade against the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. But given how they’ve protected Trump from such allegations, why should anyone care what they have to say? 

The way Trump’s aides have put on masks of righteous indignation to scold Biden over his treatment of women is a disgusting act of its own. Calling them hypocrites is too charitable; what they’re doing is a whole lot smuttier. To these opportunists, Tara Reade is just another woman to be used. 

Remember, Trump’s operatives proved their loyalty by running cover through the dozens of allegations of sexual misconduct women have made against him, revelations of hush-money payments, and his infamous “grab ’em by the pussy” remarks. Former Trump campaign manager Steve Bannon said the Access Hollywood tapes were a “litmus test” that showed “who really had Donald Trump’s back.”

Before she was promoted to the role of White House press secretary, then-Trump surrogate Kayleigh McEnany went so far as to say that the “grab ’em by the pussy” audio “implied consent.” That’s not spin. It’s a wretched thought. 

When asked in her first White House briefing about all the allegations raised against President Trump, McEnany said “he has always told the truth on these issues. He’s denied them immediately. And you’re bringing up issues, like I said, from four years ago that were asked and answered.”

Nope, that’s not true at all. Trump’s former “fixer” Michael Cohen is in jail right now, in part, because of the “hush money” he paid to silence women who wanted to speak about their alleged affairs with Trump during the campaign. Some of it might’ve been “asked” in 2016 but none was “answered”—at least not honestly—and voters were explicitly deprived of that information.

But what should we expect? With Trump and his people, it’s nothing but lies upon lies. The only news value in listening to these surrogates, whether they be employed by his campaign or in the White House, is in documenting what sorts of lies they are telling today. 

For many Trump-loving Republicans, Reade represents the chance to shove double standards down the throats of Democrats who have chanted “believe women” even in the absence of compelling evidence. She’s a means of exacting sweet revenge on those who trumpeted wild allegations made against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his 2018 nomination battle. And for these reasons, regardless of whether her story holds, Reade will be weaponized for their purposes. 

It’s hard to see how women are helped by all these self-serving political games. Abuse of women shouldn’t be something to “both sides” and play whataboutism with, yet that’s exactly what Team Trump is doing with Reade. Just like they did in 2016 when candidate Trump, seeking to shield himself from attacks in the aftermath of the Access Hollywood tapes going public, brought former President Bill Clinton’s accusers to the final presidential debate.

The Trump campaign released a statement last Friday that said, “The double standard exhibited by Biden, prominent liberal women’s groups, and Democrat elected officials—some of whom want to be Biden’s running mate—is glaring and cannot be allowed to stand.”

While the double standards argument can be helpful in exposing hypocrites, Trump’s operatives aren’t proving the point they think they are. Just try applying any of these attacks to their boss. Do they think Trump’s accusers should be believed? Where are Trump’s tax records and what about all those non-disclosure agreements? It goes on and on.

The problem they are trying to highlight about Democrats refusing to hold Biden to the same unforgiving standard as they did Kavanaugh is totally muted by the fact Trump’s defenders have never been interested in applying any standards to Trump at all. They are like atheists telling everyone else to go to church.  

The list of women who have accused President Trump of sexual misconduct is so long that the media has quit keeping track and describes them as “dozens.” President Trump, who denies all accusations of sexual assault and misconduct from these women, has shown that he has no interest in applying vigorous, equal standards when it comes to investigating allegations of sexual assault. When asked about their claims, he has called the women liars, suggested they are too unattractive for him to be interested in, and depicted himself as the victim.

Trump has never permitted himself to be subjected to any real vetting of these claims; he only mocks them.


This is a time for fair-minded people to seize the moment to finally have a good-faith debate about how to properly investigate claims of sexual misconduct. The legions of Democrats who were quick to believe Kavanaugh’s accusers should be put on record about the need to take a sober approach when vetting these claims.  Because the liberals who stretched the meaning of “Me Too” to mean all women must be believed need to face a reckoning. Otherwise, we’ll never get agreement on what standards will help end such workplace abuses once and for all.

Don’t expect anyone aligned with President Trump to contribute anything meaningful to that discussion, though. Those who have lied about or dismissed the dozens of allegations of sexual misconduct against Trump only view Tara Reade as a woman to exploit.

Amanda Carpenter

Bulwark political columnist Amanda Carpenter is a CNN contributor, author, and former communications director to Sen. Ted Cruz and speechwriter to Sen. Jim DeMint.