Trump surrounds himself with powerful men who treat women badly.
Another woman has come forward to say that she was sexually harassed by former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes, who was closely tied with President-elect Donald Trump during his campaign.
Now that Trump has won the White House, Curanaj’s allegations are a fresh reminder that the future President of the United States and the men he surrounds himself with have collectively been accused of sexist abuse by scores of women — and more women are still coming forward.
Lidia Curanaj — whose legal name is Lidija Ujkic — alleges that Ailes harassed her when she interviewed for a job at Fox News’ flagship channel five years ago. Ailes invited her to a private interview, she says. At that interview, he asked her to stand and turn around so he could evaluate her “from behind,” and then leered approvingly.
After the interview, Ailes allegedly called a man Curanaj once dated and asked him about their sex life. When he was told she was a “very nice girl,” he called Curanaj back and told her she wasn’t ready for the Fox News big leagues, according to her complaint.
“Ailes never said that he was dissatisfied with her abilities or qualifications, nor did he suggest that this was the reason she was ‘not ready,’” alleges Curanaj’s suit. Instead, Curanaj says that she wasn’t given the job precisely because Ailes thought she wouldn’t sleep with him because she was a “nice girl.”
Curanaj’s accusations are both shocking and unsurprising. More than 20 women have come forward to detail stories of abuse, humiliation, and solicitation of sexual favors for career advancement at Fox News under Ailes’ reign. And while Ailes was eventually ousted from the network over the allegations (his fall cushioned by a golden parachute of about $40 million), he didn’t have to wait long before finding a new gig.
Almost immediately, reports began circulating that Ailes was advising Donald Trump on his campaign — and soon, unfazed by the mounting accusations, Trump came to Ailes’ defense.
“I can tell you that some of the women that are complaining, I know how much he’s helped them,” Trump said.
Ailes’ involvement in the Trump campaign is just one piece of a larger trend that continues today in the incoming Trump administration.
Again and again, President-elect Donald Trump invites men into his inner circle who have allegedly exhibited violent and vile behavior towards women. As Curanaj’s suit shows, women are still coming forward with stories of abuse.
During his campaign, Trump consistently placed these men in positions of power.
Steve Bannon, who shepherded Trump’s campaign over the finish line as campaign CEO, was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence, battery, and dissuading a witness following an incident with his wife in 1996. The case was ultimately dismissed, but Bannon’s then-wife claimed he pulled at her neck and wrist, and an officer reported witnessing red marks on her skin that corroborated her account, according to Politico.
Now, Bannon will be Trump’s chief strategist in the White House.
And before Bannon came on board, Corey Lewandowski was in charge of Trump’s campaign. Lewandowski was accused of manhandling a female reporter, Michelle Fields, at a campaign event, an event witnessed by her fellow reporters. In response to the ensuing outrage, Trump and Lewandowski defamed Fields — once going so far as to insinuate she injured herself to give herself the bruises she posted to social media as proof. Lewandowski was ousted from the Trump campaign and took a job providing commentary at CNN. For part of his tenure, he was still on the Trump payroll.
Now, Lewandowski has resigned from CNN, likely in anticipation of a job in the administration.
Post-election, as he’s picking new people to bring into his cabinet, Trump has made it clear that he will continue to surround himself with men accused of violence, harassment, and abuse of women.
Andy Puzder, Trump’s pick for labor secretary, is currently the CEO of CKE Restaurants, which owns Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s — restaurants that are both known for marketing their burgers with sexist and hyper-sexualized ad campaigns. Puzder has also been accused of domestic violence. In divorce proceedings in 1989, his ex-wife listed three incidents of abuse, including one where she alleged that Puzder “attacked me, choked me, threw me to the floor, hit me in the head, pushed his knee into my chest, twisted my arm and dragged me on the floor, threw me against a wall, tried to stop my call to 911 and kicked me in the back.” (A communications firm representing her issued a statement saying that she regretted making the allegations.)
Now, as Labor Secretary, Puzder will be responsible for enforcing discrimination laws and overseeing the Women’s Bureau.
But Trump, of course, does not only endorse men with a history of misogyny. He’s also one of them himself.
After leaked footage of Trump bragging about sexual assault caused a firestorm, multiple women came forward with personal stories of being assaulted by the presidential candidate. Some women had also accused Trump even before he mounted his campaign; to date, at least a dozen women say the President-elect made unwanted sexual advances toward them.
Trump denies the allegations. During the election, he responded by attacking the women and alleging that his comments — in which he bragged about how his fame and power allowed him to grab women by the genitals — were the normal “locker room talk” of men being men. He implied that the women weren’t attractive enough to merit harassment from him. He threatened to sue women for coming forward.
Now, Donald Trump will be the next president of the United States.
And since the election, though Trump reportedly cannot make time for daily security briefings, he’s met with a slew of celebrities — including more than a few sports stars accused of violence against women.
For women, coming forward to accuse powerful figures of sexual assault is always an act of courage. Through the years, countless women — both women whose names we know, like Anita Hill, and those whose names we will never know — have paid professional and personal costs for speaking out.
Now, Trump’s election and eager promotion of other misogynists sends a clear message to America’s women: Though you may pay a price for coming forward, they probably won’t. Your country is a place where even a man who was caught on tape bragging about sexual assaulting women can be rewarded with the presidency.
Issues of sexual harassment and violence face women every day. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), one in four women experience sexual harassment at work, and many women simply don’t report it when it happens. One in three women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime, according to the CDC. After Trump’s abusive comments about women leaked in October, calls to rape crisis hotlines surged as women were triggered and reminded of their own trauma.
A culture of violence and misogyny toward women comes from the top.
Curanaj, the woman now accusing Ailes and a reporter currently working for a Fox News affiliate, details in her suit how Ailes’ leadership promoted a sexist and discriminatory environment throughout Fox’s hierarchy.
“Unfortunately, for Ms. Curanaj, the newsroom at WNYW/Ch. 5 (“Fox 5”) is yet another Fox work environment led by a male manager who follows Ailes’ lead as to what is acceptable conduct and perpetuates a work culture where women are marginalized and regularly subjected to unequal treatment” reads Curanaj’s complaint.
And now, just as Ailes was the head of Fox News, Trump is the head of the one of the most visible nations in the world.