The Campaign

7 Ways Donald Trump Showed Us His Sexism at the Second Presidential Debate

Well, that was uncomfortable. The second presidential debate — a town hall moderated by Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz — came on the heels of a volatile week for Donald Trump’s campaign, and it showed.

Hillary Clinton unsurprisingly maintained her grace under fire for the full 90 minutes, wearing a white ribbon in a subtle show of support for survivors and refusing to let Trump weasel out of confronting his painful history of sexism. She stood steadfast in opposition to his sexism, his racism, his xenophobia, and his regressive politics. And in the wake of leaked footage in which Trump and Bill Bush spoke casually and to great amusement about assaulting women, she stood strong in declaring that his campaign centered around white male anxiety makes him unfit for office:

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking over the last 48 hours about what we heard and saw. You know, with prior Republican nominees for president, I disagreed with them on politics, policies, principles, but I never questioned their fitness to serve.

Donald Trump is different. I said starting back in June that he was not fit to be president and commander-in-chief. And many Republicans and independents have said the same thing. What we all saw and heard on Friday was Donald talking about women, what he thinks about women, what he does to women. And he has said that the video doesn’t represent who he is.

But I think it’s clear to anyone who heard it that it represents exactly who he is. Because we’ve seen this throughout the campaign. We have seen him insult women. We’ve seen him rate women on their appearance, ranking them from one to ten. We’ve seen him embarrass women on TV and on Twitter. We saw him after the first debate spend nearly a week denigrating a former Miss Universe in the harshest, most personal terms.

So, yes, this is who Donald Trump is. But it’s not only women, and it’s not only this video that raises questions about his fitness to be our president, because he has also targeted immigrants, African- Americans, Latinos, people with disabilities, POWs, Muslims, and so many others.

So this is who Donald Trump is. And the question for us, the question our country must answer is that this is not who we are. That’s why — to go back to your question — I want to send a message — we all should — to every boy and girl and, indeed, to the entire world that America already is great, but we are great because we are good, and we will respect one another, and we will work with one another, and we will celebrate our diversity.

Unfortunately, he didn’t do much to convince us she was wrong. For 90 minutes, Trump’s behavior made women across the nation cringe. The things he said and did on that debate stage were reminiscent, to many of us, of the ways men have treated us across the areas of our lives. His behavior was toxic masculinity on display. He was abusive. He was dismissive.

Hillary was right. This is who Donald Trump is — and these are the ten ways he proved it last night. (Here’s a full transcript.)

He Refused to Apologize For His Sexism. In Fact, He Stood By It.

Donald Trump was straight-up called out for his sexist behavior — by Hillary Clinton and the moderators of the debate — multiple times.

Most instances involved the leaked footage of Trump proudly describing abusive behavior, but one also concerned his tweet directing people to Hillary surrogate and vocal Trump opponent Alicia Machado’s sex tape.

And time and time and time and again, Trump refused to own up to any of it. He dismissed discussing “grabbing women by the pussy” as “locker room talk” and “just words,” despite being explicitly told that the leaked tapes described sexual assault. (He also tried to claim the audio recording just wasn’t real, and then said it was largely unimportant. Women disagree, Mr. Trump.)

COOPER: Thank you, Mr. Trump. The question from Patrice was about are you both modeling positive and appropriate behavior for today’s youth? We received a lot of questions online, Mr. Trump, about the tape that was released on Friday, as you can imagine. You called what you said locker room banter. You described kissing women without consent, grabbing their genitals. That is sexual assault. You bragged that you have sexually assaulted women. Do you understand that?

TRUMP: No, I didn’t say that at all. I don’t think you understood what was — this was locker room talk. I’m not proud of it. I apologize to my family. I apologize to the American people. Certainly I’m not proud of it. But this is locker room talk.

You know, when we have a world where you have ISIS chopping off heads, where you have — and, frankly, drowning people in steel cages, where you have wars and horrible, horrible sights all over, where you have so many bad things happening, this is like medieval times. We haven’t seen anything like this, the carnage all over the world.

And they look and they see. Can you imagine the people that are, frankly, doing so well against us with ISIS? And they look at our country and they see what’s going on.

Yes, I’m very embarrassed by it. I hate it. But it’s locker room talk, and it’s one of those things. I will knock the hell out of ISIS. We’re going to defeat ISIS. ISIS happened a number of years ago in a vacuum that was left because of bad judgment. And I will tell you, I will take care of ISIS.

COOPER: So, Mr. Trump…

TRUMP: And we should get on to much more important things and much bigger things.

He denied that he directed folks to Machado’s sex tape and called her “disgusting” (spoiler alert: he did), then said he just wanted people to know she was “no Girl Scout.”

Trump answered for his own sexist behavior by spewing more sexism, attempting to gaslight everyone in the room — and in the nation — and defending examples of what are undoubtedly disgusting and unacceptable remarks and attitudes as if they were somehow justified, or even okay. In his own words, he’s “not un-proud” of this stuff.

And that’s not acceptable.

He Called Hillary A Lot Of Things. They Weren’t Nice Things.

Donald Trump has long proven to be a bully, but his behavior at last night’s debate was truly extraordinary. When asked to articulate policies or respond to critiques of his ideas, he often resorted to lashing out against Hillary. His tone when discussing her was full of disdain and aggression, and he resorted to calling her “the devil” and accusing her of having “a lot of hate” in her heart. (He also consistently questioned her “judgement” — which is plain laughable considering what we’ve seen of his own discernment.)

Even referring to Hillary as “she” or “her” sounded threatening and aggressive due to Trump’s tone. And women heard the difference.

He Interrupted Hillary A Lot (Again).

Trump interrupted Hillary 18 times last night. She interrupted him once.

When called out on disrupting the flow of the debate by Cooper, Trump responded, um, like a jerk:

COOPER: Please allow her to respond. She didn’t talk while you talked.

CLINTON: Yes, that’s true, I didn’t.

TRUMP: Because you have nothing to say.

He Dismissed Hillary’s Experience And Knowledge.

Aside from insulting her like a toddler throwing a temper tantrum, Trump also consistently diminished, mocked, and belittled Hillary for the incredible work she’s devoted her life to. His attempts to diminish her impressive record ranged from calling her incompetent to calling her time as one of the most effective legislators in Congress “a disaster.” He even attempted to say her victory in the primary wasn’t earned, but rather won through a rigged system.

On the topic of her emails:

CLINTON: I take classified materials very seriously and always have. When I was on the Senate Armed Services Committee, I was privy to a lot of classified material. Obviously, as secretary of state, I had some of the most important secrets that we possess, such as going after bin Laden. So I am very committed to taking classified information seriously. And as I said, there is no evidence that any classified information ended up in the wrong hands.

RADDATZ: OK, we’re going to move on.

TRUMP: And yet she didn’t know the word — the letter C on a document. Right? She didn’t even know what that word — what that letter meant.

On her time as a historically accomplished Secretary of State:

TRUMP: And, again, Bernie Sanders, it’s really bad judgment. She has made bad judgment not only on taxes. She’s made bad judgments on Libya, on Syria, on Iraq. I mean, her and Obama, whether you like it or not, the way they got out of Iraq, the vacuum they’ve left, that’s why ISIS formed in the first place. They started from that little area, and now they’re in 32 different nations, Hillary. Congratulations. Great job.

On her tenure as a two-term Senator:

TRUMP: Why didn’t you do it? Why didn’t you do it?

COOPER: Allow her to respond.

CLINTON: Because I was a senator with a Republican president.

TRUMP: Oh, really?

CLINTON: I will be the president and we will get it done. That’s exactly right.

TRUMP: You could have done it, if you were an effective — if you were an effective senator, you could have done it. If you were an effective senator, you could have done it. But you were not an effective senator…

…CLINTON: I’ve proven that I can, and for 30 years, I’ve produced results for people.

COOPER: Thank you, secretary.

RADDATZ: We’re going to move on to Syria. Both of you have mentioned that.

TRUMP: She said a lot of things that were false. I mean, I think we should be allowed to maybe…

RADDATZ: No, we can — no, Mr. Trump, we’re going to go on. This is about the audience.

TRUMP: Excuse me. Because she has been a disaster as a senator. A disaster.

His overall claim? That Hillary’s been doing nothing for 30 years, and hasn’t achieved anything. Well, Trump, one problem: We have receipts.

TRUMP: Well, one thing I’d do is get rid of carried interest. One of the greatest provisions for people like me, to be honest with you, I give up a lot when I run, because I knock out the tax code. And she could have done this years ago, by the way. She’s a United States — she was a United States senator.

She complains that Donald Trump took advantage of the tax code. Well, why didn’t she change it? Why didn’t you change it when you were a senator? The reason you didn’t is that all your friends take the same advantage that I do. And I do. You have provisions in the tax code that, frankly, we could change. But you wouldn’t change it, because all of these people gave you the money so you can take negative ads on Donald Trump.

But — and I say that about a lot of things. You know, I’ve heard Hillary complaining about so many different things over the years. “I wish you would have done this.” But she’s been there for 30 years she’s been doing this stuff. She never changed. And she never will change. She never will change.

He Threatened Hillary. Literally.

Despite all of this — all of these behaviors that made women across the country uncomfortable to watch — the most hands-down disturbing part of last night’s debate came during the first 30 minutes, when Trump — upset that he was being confronted about the leaked footage of his conversation with Billy Bush about assaulting women — literally threatened to put Hillary Clinton in jail. In no uncertain terms, he threatened a political rival with prison time — and did so while towering menacingly above her on the stage as she was seated.

TRUMP: So we’re going to get a special prosecutor, and we’re going to look into it, because you know what? People have been — their lives have been destroyed for doing one-fifth of what you’ve done. And it’s a disgrace. And honestly, you ought to be ashamed of yourself.

RADDATZ: Secretary Clinton, I want to follow up on that.


RADDATZ: I’m going to let you talk about e-mails.

CLINTON: … because everything he just said is absolutely false, but I’m not surprised.

TRUMP: Oh, really?

CLINTON: In the first debate…


RADDATZ: And really, the audience needs to calm down here.

CLINTON: … I told people that it would be impossible to be fact-checking Donald all the time. I’d never get to talk about anything I want to do and how we’re going to really make lives better for people.

So, once again, go to We have literally Trump — you can fact check him in real time. Last time at the first debate, we had millions of people fact checking, so I expect we’ll have millions more fact checking, because, you know, it is — it’s just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country.

TRUMP: Because you’d be in jail.

…And Invaded Her Space.

Trump’s abusive behavior didn’t end there, though. Following his threat, he proceeded to occupy Hilary’s space — spotted over and over again looming behind her while she was speaking and often stepping over his side of the stage and nearer to her when he was responding to questions. At certain points, his physical presence alone appeared threatening.

…And Gaslit Her.

Trump spent a majority of last night employing an emotional abuse tactic called “gaslighting,” which is what happens when someone attempts to manipulate someone else by making them question their reality — and sanity. There are a few ways one can employ gaslighting. Trump covered all his bases, as per usual, to hit a home run in that department.

He changed the topic to intentionally confuse discussions about his behavior, and when that didn’t work he attempted to twist those conversations into one in which someone else was to blame for his own decisions. He shifted blame — to both Hillary and Bill Clinton — when confronted about his sexism. He even shifted discussions about certain topics — including his boorish behavior — to topics like ISIS and Hillary’s “disaster” record. Perhaps the most epic example came when he was confronted about the audio footage — and somehow twisted it into Hillary owing the nation an apology for her email non-scandal.

TRUMP: But when you talk about apology, I think the one that you should really be apologizing for and the thing that you should be apologizing for are the 33,000 e-mails that you deleted, and that you acid washed, and then the two boxes of e-mails and other things last week that were taken from an office and are now missing.

He presented a distorted reality as fact, despite ample evidence to the contrary. He blatantly lied about his record and policies as well as Hillary Clinton’s career throughout the night. He denied recorded fact time and time again. He projected a false image of the nation and Hillary’s record.

He refused to answer questions with actual answers, presenting instead a broad-stroke concept that didn’t address the topics at hand. He spoke in vague generalizations, unable even when pushed by the moderators to speak in specifics about his agenda for the country.

He was straight-up disruptive during what should have been — and could have been — a calm and rational conversation. He yelled and shouted over his opponent and the moderators at various points.

He fear-mongered. He illustrated problems in the nation as catastrophic, attempting — as a bonus — to pin blame for that fear on marginalized communities.


All of this is what gaslighting looks like. All of this, especially in tandem with his physical demeanor and threatening behavior, is what abuse looks like.

For more of Trump showing us Trump, check out our Trump Unmasked portal. Or just wait until the next debate!

Carmen Rios

Carmen is a writer, revolutionary, and social media guru living the dream in Los Angeles. She coordinates blog content for the She Wins campaign and is also the Digital Editor at Ms., Co-Founder and Managing Editor at Argot Magazine, Feminism Editor and Community Director at Autostraddle, and a Contributor at Everyday Feminism.