WASHINGTON ― It’s become clear that the sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, are not of major concern to the president’s supporters and Republican allies.
Most polling shows that a majority of Republicans don’t think the multiple accusations — including attempted rape, exposing himself and groping women without their consent — should disqualify Kavanaugh from the court.
“It’s not a big deal,” said a Trump supporter in Bozeman, Montana, interviewed by MSNBC on Wednesday.
“Groping a woman? At 18? I mean, how many guys do you know who think that’s no big deal?” the unidentified woman said, turning to her daughters, who nodded.
Many of Trump and Kavanaugh’s supporters have repeated this defense: Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual assault was just routine, boys-will-be-boys behavior.
On the president’s favorite show “Fox & Friends,” co-host Brian Kilmeade lamented Wednesday that he “didn’t know your ninth- and 10th-grade actions could really reflect on what happens in the Supreme Court.”
Carrie Severino, chief counsel for the Judicial Crisis Network, the leading conservative group championing Kavanaugh’s nomination, dismissed Christine Blasey Ford’s description of events as “boorishness to rough horseplay,” though she did acknowledge that attempted rape is “a very serious allegation.”
It’s all eerily similar to almost exactly two years ago, in the final days of the 2016 presidential campaign, when The Washington Post published the infamous 2005 “Access Hollywood” recording of Trump, then host of NBC’s “The Apprentice,” bragging about sexual assault.
Then, as now, Trump’s backers seemed to have few qualms about it, downplaying and attempting to explain away the tape, which underscored his long history of sexism and misogyny. Even as at least 20 women came forward with allegations against Trump of various forms of sexual misconduct, voters elected him anyway.
Many of Trump’s supporters bought his explanation that his boasts of grabbing women “by the pussy” were simply a form of “locker room talk.”
His campaign officials, surrogates and family members flooded the airwaves with the “boys will be boys” defense.
“The fact is men talk like that,” then-Trump surrogate Rudy Giuliani said on CNN.
“We all know guys that have had conversations with other guys that go in that direction,” Trump’s eldest son, Donald Jr., said while defending his dad in the days after the tape was released. “That’s a fact of life.”
While acknowledging that “it wasn’t right,” Trump’s son Eric said the tape was just “two alpha guys in a room talking.”
Trump’s wife, Melania, dismissed the boasts as “boy talk” and joked that she had “two boys at home,” referring to her husband and their then 11-year-old son Barron.
Then, as now, Trump’s supporters went into attack mode, defending Trump by going after the credibility of the source of the claims.
After the “Access Hollywood” tape leaked to The Washington Post, Trump falsely claimed that releasing the tape was “illegal” and threatened to sue NBC.
The New York Times reported last year that Trump has since questioned the authenticity of the tape itself, privately claiming without evidence that the voice on the audio isn’t his. Trump had previously acknowledged it was him making the comments heard on the tape.
When multiple women came forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct, Trump said they were lying and denigrated their appearance and character.
Now, Trump and his defenders have similarly gone after Kavanaugh’s accusers, part of the president’s usual playbook of siding with accused men and attempting to cast doubt on their accusers.
At a U.S. Capitol rally of Kavanaugh supporters on Wednesday organized by the conservative group FreedomWorks, attendee Linda Harper of Goldsboro, North Carolina, told HuffPost that she thinks all three of Kavanaugh’s accusers are lying.
She suggested the women “are paid to do this,” citing the familiar conservative conspiracy theory that Democratic billionaire George Soros “is at the top.”
Harper’s friend, Carl Mischka of North Carolina, said he thinks the women’s allegations against Kavanaugh are “a bunch of crap,” and that they shouldn’t be a factor in his confirmation.
“It has to do with the qualifications of a human being, but not to be a Supreme Court justice,” he said.
Harper said she did not believe the women accusing Trump of sexual assault, but it did bother her when Trump talked about being able to grab women “by the pussy.”
But she said his accomplishments as president have overshadowed his crass remarks.
“We hired him to be the president and he has made the tax cuts, improved our economy, decreased unemployment for African-Americans,” she said, though her last claim isn’t accurate.
“We have better relations with countries in the world,” she said. “Now he’s making relations with North Korea. You could just list on and on. I’m a huge fan.”
Jennifer Bendery contributed reporting.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.