Why Trump's Comments To Female Journalists Are Sexist and Inappropriate

Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images.
If you're a female reporter asking the president of the United States to answer a question about healthcare, he might tell you to shut up.
That's what President Trump did on Monday when an Associated Press reporter asked him if he had a message on healthcare, given that the Senate is on its way to vote on a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act this week. "Be quiet," the president told the journalist during a photo op with White House interns. He went on to roll his eyes when asked about Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who he's been attacking recently, and told the interns the press is "not supposed to do that" — meaning ask questions during a photo op.
Advertisement
It's not the first time Trump has told a female journalist to "be quiet," either. Almost exactly one year ago, Trump told NBC News' Katy Tur to "be quiet" when she asked if he had "any qualms about asking a foreign government ... to hack into a system of anybody’s in this country." (Trump had just said "if Russia or China or any other country" had Hillary Clinton's emails, he would "love to see them." This was interpreted by many as the then-Republican candidate urging a foreign adversary to hack his opponent, which is quite ironic considering the recent developments in the Trump-Russia investigation.)
By telling female journalists to "be quiet" and rolling his eyes like an annoyed teenager like he did yesterday, the president proved once again that he's a case study on how not to treat female journalists — or any woman, for that matter.
And truth be told, Trump's inappropriate comments and behavior shouldn't surprise us anymore. The president has a history of focusing on a female reporter's appearance or her alleged "neurotic" behavior in response to her reporting. (See: Megyn Kelly and Trump's menstruation comments.) He has also used his power to act condescendingly towards journalists of both genders whose reporting he dislikes.
Of course, Trump is far from the only man who treats female reporters with disrespect just by virtue of their gender. But, his track record is definitely an example of how not to treat women in journalism.
Advertisement

The "beautiful Irish press"

In late June, Trump interrupted a call with Ireland's new prime minister, Leo Varadkar, when a female Irish journalist caught his eye.
“Well, we have a lot of your Irish press watching us,” Trump told Vardkar, before spotting Ireland RTE's U.S. Bureau Chief Caitriona Perry. He then interrupted his call with the prime minister and gestured for Perry to come closer to his desk.
"And where are you from?" he said. "Go ahead. Come here, come here. Where are you from? We have all of this beautiful Irish press."
After Perry introduced herself, Trump told the prime minister, "She has a nice smile on her face, so I bet she treats you well."
Advertisement
The exchange was awkward, and Perry herself called the moment bizarre. One reason so many women felt uncomfortable with what some people mistakenly called a series of "compliments" is because most of us have encountered that dude in the workplace, the one that makes the inappropriate comments. Not to mention that calling women "unprofessional" or "crazy" are the words of choice used to silence women when they call out this type of behavior.
And to those who say Trump's completely inappropriate assertion was okay because the journalist smiled, let's break it down for you: Perry, a foreign correspondent, was in front of the most powerful man in the world and a bunch of cameras. Even if she felt uncomfortable to the bone, how was she supposed to react? "Mr. President, that comment is out of place"?
Don't fault Perry for being a professional in the face of inappropriate comments.

"Blood coming out of her wherever"

Advertisement
The Trump-Kelly feud was the stuff of legends during the 2016 presidential election.
In August 2015, Trump was visibly irritated at Kelly for her questioning during the first Republican debate. So, he decided to imply that Kelly's behavior (i.e. doing her job) during the debate was because she was on her period.
"She gets out and she starts asking me all sorts of ridiculous questions," he said. "You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever." (Trump later denied he was referring to menstruation.)
Almost two years later, they're apparently on good terms. But that doesn't erase the fact that Trump couldn't deal with a reporter's assertive questioning and dismissed her by implying she was on her period.
Advertisement

"A neurotic dope"

The president seems to enjoy accusing female journalists of being neurotic.
In September, he called New York Times' columnist Maureen Dowd a "neurotic dope," wacky, and crazy after she was interviewed about her book, The Year of Voting Dangerously, a collection of her columns on Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Advertisement
In her book, Dowd wrote that the then-Republican candidate was one of "too few operatic characters in the world. I think of him as a toon. He’s just drawn that way."
Judging by his tweets, Trump didn't take it well. So once again, he decided to diminish someone's reporting skills by calling her crazy.

"Little Katy"

Along wih Megyn Kelly, NBC News' Katy Tur was another one of Trump's greatest media foes during the 2016 campaign. He used to single her out as "Little Katy," and once told her to be quiet after she asked him a question. He also tweeted that she should be fired, and called her incompetent, dishonest, and a "3rd rate reporter."
In fact, Trump's behavior toward Tur was so ruthless that the Secret Service had to accompany her whenever she was at one of his rallies for fear that his supporters might hurt her. All of this because Trump wasn't happy with Tur's reporting — particularly, he alleged she was not mentioning the size of his crowds. (She was.)
Advertisement

"She was bleeding badly from a face-lift"

For a long time, Trump was a fan of MSNBC's Morning Joe and was on friendly terms with the hosts. He even offered to marry Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, who got engaged earlier this year. But as his presidency has taken hold, they have been highly critical of the administration, and their relationship with Trump has soured.
In late June, the president tweeted about them. But while Scarborough got the nickname "Psycho Joe," the president decided to call Brzezinski "low I.Q. Crazy Mika" and attack both her intelligence and appearance, alleging that "she was bleeding badly from a face-lift" during a New Year's Eve visit to Mar-a-Lago, Trump's resort in Palm Beach, FL.
Advertisement
Many suspect that the president's tweets were set off by Brzezinski saying on the show that "nothing makes a man feel better than making a fake cover of a magazine about himself, lying every day, and destroying the country," in reference to The Washington Post's report that Trump hung fake Time magazine covers featuring him in at least five of his golf clubs.
His tweet was not the first time Trump has criticized Brzezinski, either. (It's also at least the second time Trump has tried to condescend to a female journalist by alluding to blood.)
Last August, he tweeted the host was "off the wall, a neurotic and not very bright mess!"
There's a pattern here.
Advertisement
Accusations of neuroticism, condescending nicknames, and plastic surgery-shaming aside, it's truly beneath the dignity of the presidency (or anyone, really) to spout such sexists remarks. (And yes, people like President Obama have said sexist things too. He once called Sen. Kamala Harris the "best good-looking attorney general." But, unlike Trump, he quickly apologized.)
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told Fox News that Trump was "fighting fire with fire." Whether that's true or not is in some ways irrelevant, the comments he made about Brzezinski were objectively inappropriate.
But coming from someone who has such an ugly history when it comes to his treatment of women, is anyone surprised?
This story was originally published on June 29, 2017. It has since been updated.
Advertisement