USA Today’s editorial board had some scathing words on President Donald Trump Tuesday: He is a “uniquely awful” figure whose “sickening behavior is corrosive to the enterprise of a shared governance based on common values and the consent of the governed.”
It is perhaps the most epic editorial Trump takedown of 2017 — and from a publication that has traditionally treaded lightly in politics.
“A president who would all but call Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand a whore is not fit to clean the toilets in the Barack Obama Presidential Library or to shine the shoes of George W. Bush,” the editorial board wrote, referring to Trump’s Tuesday morning tweet saying that the New York Democrat “would do anything” for campaign contributions.
The White House has attempted to downplay the heavy sexist undertones of Trump’s attack. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday said that “only if your mind is in the gutter” would one have read sexual connotations into his tweet.
“The president’s words were deliberate,” USA Today wrote. “He pours the gasoline of sexist language and lights the match gleefully knowing how it will burst into flame in a country reeling from the #MeToo moment.”
Gillibrand in an interview with the Today show on Wednesday said she had the same read. “It was certainly just a sexist smear intended to silence me,” she said.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) on Tuesday slammed Trump on Twitter for his attempt to “bully” and “slut-shame” Gillibrand.
Most of USA Today’s editorials, which represent the official viewpoint of the newspaper’s editorial board, are coupled with an opposing view. The paper’s anti-Trump editorial was accompanied by one from Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel. She called the Democrats’ response to Trump’s Gillibrand tweet “laughable.”
Beyond Trump’s overt sexism, the USA Today editorial board also listed other examples of the “unique awfulness” of the Trump era. They cited his support for Alabama’s failed Republican senatorial candidate Roy Moore, who faced multiple allegations of sexual misconduct, including against teenagers; his hundreds of lies while in office; and his failure to fill dozens of government positions. They also hit his refusal to release his tax returns under the “absurd excuse” that he is under audit, and his ethics-breaking business entanglements.
Trump takes advantage of any occasion “to stir racial, religious, or ethnic strife,” the board wrote, noting his exploitation of Monday’s attempted terrorist attack in New York City to tout his anti-immigration policies and his equivocal reaction to racist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, this summer.
And, they warned, it will only get worse. “Rock bottom is no impediment for a new president who can always find room for a new low,” they wrote.
USA Today isn’t the most obvious place to take a stand on Trump. And yet here we are.
USA Today, which is owned by the newspaper publisher Gannett, has a reputation as a middle-of-the-road national publication that you’re likely to find sitting outside your hotel room door in the morning. While it is one of the most popular newspapers in the United States, it is not known for taking major political stances.
But Trump has pushed the publication further into politics.
In September 2016, USA Today’s editorial board called Trump “unfit” for the presidency. “By all means vote, just not for Donald Trump,” they wrote. Though the board stopped short of making a full-throated endorsement of Hillary Clinton, its anti-Trump stance marked the first time in the paper’s 34-year history that its editorial board took a side in a presidential race.
USA Today has an audience of nearly 3 million people, according to statistics provided by the paper, and its readership is 57 percent men, 43 percent women.
That is potentially millions of people, many of them presumably Trump voters, who this week will be reading a historically apolitical paper say it is a “shock that only six Democratic senators are calling for our unstable president to resign,” and concluding:
The nation doesn’t seek nor expect perfect presidents, and some have certainly been deeply flawed. But a president who shows such disrespect for the truth, for ethics, for the basic duties of the job and for decency toward others fails at the very essence of what has always made America great.