US ELECTIONS 2016

Women, taxes, deception: Why Donald Trump is uncomfortable with the past

Media coverage is putting the Republican presidential hopeful on the defensive

Donald Trump in 1991, a time when he posed as his own spokesman.
Donald Trump in 1991, a time when he posed as his own spokesman.Luiz Ribeiro / AP

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Insults against women, accusations of sexual assault, along with stories of a former butler’s hate campaign against Barack Obama: Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump finally goes on the defensive after a number of articles published last week dragged a few skeletons out of the closet.

Trump is not bashful about attacking women who question his authority. Since launching his presidential campaign in June 2015, he has targeted Megyn Kelly, a Fox News TV presenter, Carly Fiorina, the only female candidate in the Republican race, and Heidi Cruz, the wife of his toughest rival in the primary, Senator Ted Cruz. Trump is also famous for making fun of contestants in the Miss Universe contest he ran for a while. Now The New York Times has published an article suggesting his playboy approach to women dates back decades. The story is old news: the press has been publishing accounts of alleged sexual assaults and verbal attacks against women for years. But the picture created by the NYT story is disturbing.

Trump is not bashful about attacking women who question his authority

The New York property magnate says his ideal woman is his mother. She did not work, “always understood” and accommodated a husband who worked nonstop and who could disappear anytime work called. Yet Trump has appointed women in top posts within his organizations, including his ex-wife, Ivana Trump. But his treatment of them was condescending and degrading, reports the NYT. In his 1997 book The Art of the Comeback, Trump says: “My big mistake with Ivana was taking her out of the role of wife and allowing her to run one of my casinos... The problem was, work was all she wanted to talk about. I will never again give a wife responsibility within my business.” Trump has responded to the article via Twitter saying the NYT failed to interview any of the women he helped. “Why doesn't the failing New York Times write the real story on the Clintons and women? The media is TOTALLY dishonest!” he added.

“It’s none of your business,” Trump likes to say when asked to release his income tax details. Presidential candidates traditionally publish last year’s return during the primaries campaign. Democratic contenders Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have already done so. Trump claims he cannot release his because he is currently being audited, a claim that has already raised a few eyebrows. And his refusal provide any information about how much tax he pays has drawn criticism, especially for a man who cites his wealth as an indication of his business savvy, a quality he believes useful in a president.

There was a time when Donald Trump was just a millionaire businessman with no political aspirations. Yet even in those days, in the 1980s and 1990s, he was making headlines over his expensive divorces. Like any good mogul, Trump has always been surrounded by a team to manage his image. But according to The Washington Post, Trump spoke to the press on several occasions while posing as one of his spokesmen, giving the names John Miller or John Barron. The Post published the recording of a 1991 phone interview with People magazine during which a man identifies himself as John Miller, though the newspaper says the voice is unmistakably Trump’s. The Republican presumptive nominee has vehemently denied the claim. “No, I don't know anything about it. I have many, many people that are trying to imitate my voice and you can imagine that. This sounds like one of these scams,” Trump told NBC.

Like any wealthy man with a high opinion of himself, Trump says he could not live without a butler. Anthony Senecal served him in this capacity for 17 years. After retiring from the post, he became the in-house “historian” at the Trump estate, Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach, Florida. Though Trump has criticized President Barack Obama harshly throughout his campaign, his former butler has managed to surpass him. The 84-year-old Senecal has repeatedly published posts on his Facebook page expressing his wish to see someone kill the president, whom he calls a “zero.” He admitted to Mother Jones magazine that he was indeed the author of those posts saying: “I can’t stand that bastard. I don’t believe he’s an American citizen.” His boss was one of the so-called “birthers” who demanded that the president release his birth certificate for verification during the 2008 presidential campaign. The Secret Service has said it will investigate the case. Meanwhile, the Trump campaign has distanced itself from this once faithful associate.

English version by Dyane Jean François.

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