Trump Pulls a Sleazy Sexist Stunt, Prompting False Equivalence from the Media

Donald Trump has somehow managed to achieve an even lower bar of reality-show indignity. Not content with the reality show circus the 2016 campaign has already become (far eclipsing even the shallow veneer of fluff that normally constitutes our presidential elections), Trump has actually invited Gennifer Flowers to first debate. Flowers, for her part, has accepted.

Ostensibly, this is revenge for Hillary Clinton inviting billionaire and prominent Trump critic Mark Cuban to the debate herself. That in turn has caused many members of the media to declare that turnabout is fair game, because Clinton started it. But that’s more than a little precious.

Love him or hate him, Mark Cuban is an accomplished figure. He is a billionaire and entrepreneur, sports owner and media celebrity. He supports Clinton. And his main critique of Donald Trump is substantive: he claims convincingly that Trump isn’t nearly as wealthy as he pretends, and that real billionaires see Trump more as a sideshow clown than a true business success in their league. Trump could refute by releasing his tax returns, but he refuses to do so. That Clinton’s invitation to Cuban was meant to provoke is without question, but it’s not beyond the bounds of decency, nor is it a purely personal insult. It’s substantive politics.

Inviting Gennifer Flowers is something else altogether. Flowers is not a person of special significance beyond her relationship with Bill Clinton, nor does she have a substantive critique of Hillary Clinton. Trump invited her out of personal pique and vendetta, in a move that’s more appropriate for Jerry Springer than a presidential campaign.

It’s pretty repulsive, and to claim any sort of equivalency between the Flowers and Cuban invites is a gross disservice to reality.

UPDATE: It appears that the Trump campaign has backed away from this stunt.

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David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist, and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly’s “Political Animal” and president of the Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.