BY ROBIN ABCARIAN
President Donald Trump wants a Supreme Court that will overturn Roe vs. Wade. He supported separating mothers from their small children at the border. And he has revived his nickname for U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, turning “Pocahontas” into a slur that is both racist and sexist.
Does it surprise anyone that he has tried to make a mockery of the #MeToo movement by hiring as his new communications director a man who resigned his top job at Fox News Network as a result of the rampant sexual harassment that occurred on his watch?
Last week, the White House announced that Bill Shine, the former Fox co-president who protected alleged sexual predators such as Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes, would be coming aboard as a replacement for Hope Hicks.
Unlike Ailes and O’Reilly, Shine has not been accused of sexual impropriety himself, and has denied knowing about the harassment that was pervasive at Fox. He has rarely given interviews, says journalist Gabriel Sherman, because he believes, as did his mentor Ailes, that “reporters were the enemy.”
Shine oversaw a workplace rife with abuse and harassment. He thinks reporters — the very professionals who worked for him at Fox — are bad guys. His hiring is a distressingly perfect representation of the Trump ethos: I don’t really care, do you?
Hiring Shine sends a couple of other loud signals: First, of course, that Trump is preparing to turn the White House communications office into a much more disciplined Fox News-style war room to tighten up messaging and fend off the fallout from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation (which, let’s not forget, has already resulted in five guilty pleas and 19 indictments).
Second, it’s quite clear from this appointment that Trump, who famously boasted of grabbing women’s genitals and has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior by about two dozen women, is incapable of even pretending to understand the damage sexual harassment can inflict. His antipathy toward women, and the #MeToo movement, is sickening.
At a rally in Montana on Thursday, he joked that if he ever found himself in a debate with Sen. Warren, he would demand she take an ancestry test.
“In the middle of the debate, when she proclaims she is of Indian heritage, we will take that little kit,” he said, “but we have to do it gently because we’re in the #MeToo generation … and we will slowly toss it, hoping it doesn’t hit her and injure her arm.”
In the absence of information about the press-shy Shine, media attention has focused on Shine’s far less reticent wife, Darla, a former television producer-turned-happy-housewife (her phrase).
After her husband was named to the White House job, the website Mediaite posted screenshots of her Twitter account, which has since been deleted. Neither the White House nor her husband has commented on her feed, in which she has complained that white people can’t use the N-word even though her tweets are peppered with it. She also tweeted that psychiatric medications caused mass killer Dylann Roof’s racist rampage and has promoted junk theories about links between vaccines and autism.
Darla Shine is the author of a book for women called, I kid you not, “Happy Housewives: I was a Whining, Miserable, Desperate Housewife — but I Finally Snapped Out of it … You Can, Too.”
Hoping for a lighthearted parody, I curled up with the book this weekend.
It’s parody, all right, but not the kind that is intended.
It’s a cranky, extended rant against the fictional denizens of Wisteria Lane — from the satiric TV show “Desperate Housewives,” a hit in 2005 when Shine wrote the book — and an incoherent screed against feminism.
Shine calls for affluent moms who have left the workforce to stop complaining about feeling unfulfilled and start enjoying being home with their children. If only she had stopped there.
“I want women everywhere to call for a movement to send women back home,” Shine writes. “Let’s admit for once and for all that we like to make crafts, we like to bake, we like to be home, and deep inside, we’re happy that our husbands are out there working and we’re not.”
How does someone type that with a straight face?
As silly as her book is, it does represent a strain of thought that pervades this administration.
It speaks to a deep-seated hostility toward women that is perfectly in keeping with what Trump, his socially conservative base — and by extension, Shine’s husband — would like to accomplish.
We are living in an upside-down world where an American administration actually refused to support a World Health Organization resolution encouraging breastfeeding in underdeveloped countries as the healthiest nutritional alternative for infants.
Trump has proposed changes in the way the federal government funds clinics that provide reproductive health services to women.
Forget abortion for a minute; his administration wants to limit access to birth control and place a renewed emphasis on abstinence-only sex education, which is about as good a way to promote unwanted pregnancy as there is.
But if you think it’s fear mongering to warn about the possibility of Roe vs. Wade being overturned by the next Supreme Court — or severely restricted — then you have not been paying attention.
The reference point for people who want to make America “great” again is a moment from the not-so-pleasant past when women stayed home and raised babies (on formula!) and everybody was happy — if by “everybody” you happen to mean affluent white men.
Robin Abcarian is a columnist at the Los Angeles Times.