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Former President Donald Trump Rallies Supporters In Georgia
Rep. Matt Gaetz speaks to supporters of former U.S. President Donald Trump during a rally in Commerce, Georgia, on March 26.Megan Varner / Getty Images, file

Why Matt Gaetz’s ugly rhetoric about women and abortion matters

In 2022, Matt Gaetz's odious rhetoric about women and abortion is an applause line for the Republican base that carries no consequences.


In the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump faced allegations of sexual misconduct from many women, including one who accused the Republican of having groped her on an airplane. The then-candidate denied the claim in an unusually ugly way.

“When you looked at that horrible woman last night,” Trump said in an apparent reference to the accuser’s appearance on CNN, “you said, ‘I don’t think so, I don’t think so.’”

As we discussed at the time, the not-so-subtle implication was that Trump doesn’t find one of his accusers physically attractive, so we shouldn’t believe her claims of sexual assault. He made similar comments a few years later about writer E. Jean Carroll, telling reporters, “[S]he’s not my type.” It sounded as if Trump didn’t consider Carroll attractive enough to attack.

The rhetoric came to mind listening to Rep. Matt Gaetz over the weekend. HuffPost reported:

Unattractive women who “look like a thumb” shouldn’t complain about losing abortion rights because they’re the “least” likely to get pregnant, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said in a jaw-dropping speech to college students at a conservative conference in Florida on Saturday.

“Have you watched these pro-abortion, pro-murder rallies?” Gaetz asked the crowd at the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit in Tampa. “The people are just disgusting. Why is it that the women with the least likelihood of getting pregnant are the ones most worried about having abortions?”

The Florida Republican added, “Nobody wants to impregnate you if you look like a thumb.”

Right off the bat, it’s worth noting that Gaetz should probably be a little less cavalier when making offensive comments like these given that he’s facing a sex-trafficking investigation. (The congressman has acknowledged the investigation but has denied any wrongdoing.)

I’m also wistful for the days in which such brazenly misogynistic rhetoric would likely be seen as a career-killer for any aspiring politician.

But stepping back, just as notable as Gaetz’s odious rhetoric was the response he received from his far-right audience: Turning Point USA Student Action Summit attendees cheered with approval.

Why would anyone say such awful things about women and abortion? Because in 2022, such rhetoric is an applause line for the Republican base that carries no consequences.

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes added last night that Gaetz’s misogyny “is a pretty central part of modern conservatism, maybe the central aspect.”