CW: Domestic violence, sexual assault
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders has an immense amount of power to dictate the way in which the American public perceives the credibility of President Donald Trump’s administration. However, she grossly mishandles and obfuscates instances of sexual assault allegations against Congressional politicians and Trump administration officials. Her reactions to points raised by the press pool about other issues is, in fact, an abuse of her position as a supposed conveyor of accurate information about the White House and Trump.
In some ways, Huckabee-Sanders perpetuates even more misogyny than Trump does because of her complete repudiation of female accusations of sexual assault.
Since last July, when Huckabee-Sanders was appointed to be Press Secretary, the United States has lived through what feels like a million news cycles uncovering more facets to the extent of Trump’s misogyny and denial of sexual assault allegations against him.
The Rob Porter scandal, which broke Feb. 6, was the latest, but likely not the last event that demonstrates the White House’s commitment to stripping away gender equality and civil rights. In October 2017, the Trump administration Department of Health and Human Services repealed the requirement that employers had to include birth control coverage in health insurance plans. Trump endorsed an alleged child molester for U.S. Senate in Alabama, attempted to ban transgender service members from serving openly in the military based on completely unsubstantiated evidence, and settled a non-disclosure agreement with a former porn star, all of which are incidents of his deprioritization of women’s and LGBTQIA+ people’s bodies as valid identities.
Huckabee-Sanders has defended him and people who work for him through every single shocking story that has come out of the muddled, disorganized White House. This most recent instance was no different.
Rob Porter, former White House Staff Secretary, was accused by his two ex-wives of emotional abuse and severe domestic violence in 2005 and 2010. Top White House staff members like Chief of Staff John Kelly and White House Counsel Don McGahn knew about Porter’s history of abuse before they hired him, yet chose to hire and give him security clearance to handle the classified information coming to the President’s desk through briefings and memos.
Domestic violence, one of the most abhorrent crimes, is evidently not reason enough to prevent someone from being hired by the Trump administration.
Before Trump, this story would permeate the media’s consciousness for weeks and would be immediately addressed by any president. It is hard for a story to pervade a constant onslaught of breaking news with so many new stories all the time. News readers and viewers have become numb to stories like Porter’s because of Trump’s penchant for creating — instead of suppressing — chaos, which allows stories like this to slip through the grasp of people's consciousness and quickly become obsolete. It is a blip on people’s radars and treated as another side show in the Trump White House circus. Even though this story did receive sustained coverage for a few weeks, other stories have now broken and become the new hot topic.
This culture of quick news obsolescence allows for a person like Huckabee-Sanders to shine. If she says something in a press briefing that misconstrues the White House’s official position on an issue or hides some important action they have taken to suppress essential information, it is only briefly given its due coverage because it has happened so often that her previous missteps are washed away by the following one.
Throughout the Porter scandal, Huckabee-Sanders intensely defended him, saying “the President and Chief of Staff have full confidence and trust in his abilities and performance.” She ignored that many high ranking Trump administration officials knew of the accusations against Porter, yet still permitted him to hold the incredibly powerful position of controlling Trump’s information flow for over a year before these allegations surfaced.
As the most visible female face of the Trump administration, Huckabee-Sanders has the opportunity to shape the way in which the administration represents women. Unfortunately, a shift in behavior likely wouldn’t make a sizable impact, as voting patterns and unmistakable audio evidence have shown that whether or not a male candidate for president is misogynist, white women—the majority of female voters—will vote for him anyway.
Trump has been tied to sexual assault and domestic violence for over 30 years. He has avoided and denied all attempts to incriminate him, as aided and abetted by his staff. The women who work for him are complicit and work to uphold the structures antithetical to the feminist resistance.
Jo Nordhoff-Beard SC ‘19 is an English major from Seattle. She enjoys Sam Hunt, flavored seltzer water, and reading memoirs written by women.