U.S. President Donald Trump (R) answers reporters' questions during a photo opportunity with Prime Minister Of Denmark in the Oval Office at the White House March 30, 2017 in Washington, DC.
Chip Somodevilla

Trump haunted by his record during Sexual Assault Prevention Month

Late yesterday, Donald Trump took a break from his usual Twitter habits to publish a seemingly uncontroversial message. Above a photo of the White House lit in blue, the president took a moment to honor World Autism Awareness Day.

And what’s wrong with that? On the surface, nothing. But seeing Trump mention autism in any context immediately serves as a reminder that the Republican, before the election, said he believes vaccines can cause “horrible autism” – a dangerous idea with no basis in scientific fact. This has continued during Trump’s presidency, as evidenced by an event in February at which he insisted there’s been a “tremendous increase” in the number of autism cases, which isn’t what the evidence shows at all.

In other words, the simple act of a president honoring World Autism Awareness Day is becoming difficult, not for reasons that have anything to do with the occasion itself, but because Trump’s record is so ridiculous.

A similar dynamic unfolded late Friday afternoon, when the White House released Trump’s new proclamation in recognition of National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. It read in part:
“At the heart of our country is the emphatic belief that every person has unique and infinite value. We dedicate each April to raising awareness about sexual abuse and recommitting ourselves to fighting it. Women, children, and men have inherent dignity that should never be violated.

“According to the Department of Justice, on average there are more than 300,000 instances of rape or other sexual assault that afflict our neighbors and loved ones every year. Behind these painful statistics are real people whose lives are profoundly affected, at times shattered, and who are invariably in need of our help, commitment, and protection.

“As we recognize National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, we are reminded that we all share the responsibility to reduce and ultimately end sexual violence. As a Nation, we must develop meaningful strategies to eliminate these crimes, including increasing awareness of the problem in our communities, creating systems that protect vulnerable groups, and sharing successful prevention strategies.”
Again, it’s a good thing when the White House recognizes National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, and there’s nothing problematic about the text of the proclamation.

The problem, however, is with the person who signed the proclamation.

As much of the world probably recalls, Donald Trump was recorded in 2005 boasting about his romantic exploits, which eventually led him to brag about committing sexual assaults. The Republican said, among other things, that he kisses women he considers beautiful – “I don’t even wait,” Trump claimed – which he said he can get away with because of his public profile.

“And when you’re a star, they let you do it,” Trump said on the recording. “You can do anything. Grab ‘em by the p—y.”

After Trump denied having done what he bragged about doing, 11 women came forward to accuse the Republican of sexual misconduct – one of whom is currently suing the president for defamation, stemming from the controversy.

This isn’t a dynamic that will simply go away. If Trump honors those with physical disabilities, we’ll be reminded of his mockery of Serge Kovaleski. If the president recognizes Hispanic Heritage Month, we’ll think of his racist attacks against a Latino judge. If he honors Gold Star parents, we’ll be reminded of his unfortunate remarks about the Khan family.

The president has a weight he’ll drag with him for the remainder of his term: his own record.

Donald Trump

Trump haunted by his record during Sexual Assault Prevention Month