Will Trump mention #metoo at State of the Union?
ABC News(WASHINGTON) — The reverberations of the #metoo movement have echoed around the country and inspired a record number of women to run for public office.
For Trump, it’s a complicated issue, political science experts said.
He was elected in 2016 after several women publicly complained about his behavior and after the airing of the now infamous 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape, in which Trump could be heard off-camera suggesting that fame empowered him to grab women by the genitals and “just start kissing” them.
“Donald Trump is probably not the best standard bearer for this,” said Michele Swers, a professor of American Government at Georgetown University.
The president has said he is “for” women but isn’t a feminist.
In an interview with Piers Morgan on Britain’s ITV, airing Sunday, Trump noted that “I wouldn’t say I’m a feminist. I mean, I think that would be, maybe, going too far. I’m for women, I’m for men, I’m for everyone.”
More broadly, only 29 percent of women approve of the president’s job, according to a January ABC News Washington Post poll, and 55 percent of women doubt Trump’s mental stability.
But just because the president is unlikely to mention the topic, doesn’t mean the issue will be absent from the room.
Several Democratic lawmakers have said they will wear black to the speech to highlight the issue, just as actresses wore black to the Golden Globes earlier this month. Both House members and Senators will bring sexual assault victims and women’s rights activists as their guests.
And some members of Congress will wear the TIME’S UP pin to stand in solidarity with survivors of sexual harassment and assault.
Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-N.J., will bring Rose Gunter, the niece of Recy Taylor as her guest. Taylor was raped by six white men in 1944 and had her story cited by Oprah Winfrey at the Golden Globes. Rep. Brenda Lawrence is bringing as her guest author Danielle McGuire, whose book “At the Dark End of the Street” highlighted Taylor’s case.
But the message will have fierce competition from a man who knows how to garner headlines.
“A lot of that message will come from the symbolism,” said Swers, adding that “President Trump knows how to make news – so it has to compete against whatever larger message he is saying.”
The White House has previewed the topics the president will touch on in his remarks – jobs, immigration, infrastructure, trade and national security. The opioid crisis is also likely to come up as is a salute to the military in some form.
“Donald Trump just this weekend said he wasn’t a feminist. That’s not news to us – he shows his true colors virtually every time he opens his mouth or his Twitter, and with every piece of legislation he pushes. Even if Trump brings up the #MeToo movement, which we expect he won’t, he’s still the same man who cruelly attacks the women who have accused him of sexual misconduct, and whose administration has systematically attacked women’s access to health care, equal pay, and their reproductive rights. One speech changes nothing,” said Stephanie Schriock, the president of EMILY’s List, in a statement to ABC News.
EMILY’s List notes it has heard from over 30,000 women since Election Day interested in running for office, compared to the 920 women heard from during the entire two-year 2016 election cycle.
There are 389 women are running for the House of Representatives, 49 women running for Senate and 79 women running for governor in 2018, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.
Bits of fallout have already been seen: women won a record number of seats, 28, in Virginia’s House of Delegates in November. Republican candidate Roy Moore, who faced questions of sexual misconduct, lost in the deep red state of Alabama’s Senate race in December.
Most of the women running this year are Democrats. Women support Democratic candidates, 64-29, according to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll.
And that means one place the #metoo message will likely be heard is from Rep. Joe Kennedy, D-Mass., who is delivering the Democratic response to Trump.
Kennedy hails from a famous family, comes from a deep-blue state and has a strong record on social issues – things likely to appeal to Democrats ahead of the 2018 election.
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