“I encountered all kinds of sexism,” Conway tells Cosmo’s Kristen Mascia in a story published on Tuesday. “The most extreme examples were unwanted sexual advances. Always by older men, often in positions of power, with some fancy title before their name and an R or a D after it.”
The candid remarks, while not directly addressing the behavior of her boss, explain a lot more about the 50-year-old’s views on Trump than anything she’s actually said about him or more generally about feminism and women.
Conway, like many women who voted for Trump, seems to view harassment as just an unfortunate thing that men do and women tolerate. Her personal story goes a long way in helping explain why 53 percent of white women voters overlooked Trump’s controversial history with women and elected him into power.
The president’s adviser explains she never protested about sexual assault when she was starting out in the 1990s, noting that no one called it that back then.
“[I]t would be embarrassing to the twentysomething or thirtysomething-year-old girl to try to make some federal case out of somebody who was in a huge position of power,” she says. “You’d rather just pretend it didn’t happen, that it was your fault, or that it would never happen again. The idea that you think you’ve got the right to stick your tongue down my throat is pretty darn disgusting.”
Disgusting is the word Conway also used to describe Trump’s language in a 2005 video, leaked during the presidential campaign, in which he told Billy Bush that he likes to “just start kissing” women. “Just kiss. I don’t even wait,” he says in the video from the set of Access Hollywood. “Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything,” the now-president of the U.S. said.
After the tape leaked, Conway supported Trump’s excuse that this was just locker room talk and said Trump has always been “gracious and a gentleman.” Trump has also been accused of grabbing and assaulting more than a dozen other women. He’s called these women “liars.” He’s also attacked some of them for their looks.
Conway’s experiences with harassment aren’t that unusual for a woman rising in her career in the 90s. For many women coming up in the overwhelmingly male worlds of politics or corporate America, sexual harassment was just part of the deal.
And for many women, who overlooked Trump’s comments and behavior and voted for him, ignoring inappropriate sexual behavior is totally normal.
“Listen, who hasn’t had their ass grabbed by somebody?” a childhood friend of Conway tells Cosmo.
In her new memoir, former Fox anchor Megyn Kelly describes similar kinds of situations with colleagues and superiors, including, CEO Roger Ailes. She finally spoke up about it last year, after fellow anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit against the Fox news executive, and helped get Ailes ousted from his post.
In her book Settle for More, Kelly writes movingly about the importance of sticking up for her female colleagues.
Conway doesn’t have many female colleagues in the Trump administration. She is the most high-profile woman in the president’s inner circle. His cabinet has the lowest percentage of women since the Reagan era.
After millions of women marched to protest Trump’s inauguration last month, Conway told ABC News that she “didn’t see the point.”