Donald Trump’s tactically dubious decision to continue his attacks on a former Miss Universe over her weight gain following a disastrous performance in the first presidential debate have caused the question of his treatment of women to flare up yet again.
With a history of disparaging comments about women that goes back decades, Trump has done little in the course of his presidential campaign to try to combat the impression that he is deeply misogynistic -- even insulting the looks of former contender for the Republican nomination Carly Fiorina and suggesting that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton isn’t suited for the Oval Office because she doesn’t look “presidential.”
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The latest flare-up apparently prompted the Los Angeles Times to go digging through depositions filed as part of a class action lawsuit against a Trump golf club in California in 2012, where reporters unearthed multiple examples of former Trump employees testifying that Trump had, both personally and through the atmosphere he created at his property, engaged in extremely sexist behavior toward women, some of them quite young, who worked for him.
The lawsuit, Messerschmidt v. Trump National Golf Club, was not actually about sexual discrimination or mistreatment, but about work hours. The class charged that Trump’s club had not followed California state law by giving employees required breaks and time off for meals. The golf club settled most elements of the suit in 2013, paying $475,000 to the workers who claimed that they had been denied their legally required break time. One plaintiff, who had alleged that she was fired in retaliation for complaining about the lack of break time, settled privately for an undisclosed sum.
But some of the really embarrassing material appears not in the complaint but in the deposition transcripts, where female employees discuss Trump personally directing staff to fire women he deemed unattractive and to hire younger, prettier workers.
One former employee testified that she “witnessed Donald Trump tell managers many times while he was visiting the club that restaurant hostesses were "not pretty enough" and that they should be fired and replaced with more attractive women. Initially, I heard Mr. Trump say this almost every time he visited the club (which was perhaps four or five times a year).
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Later, he made these comments less frequently because the club's managers knew about this "attitude" or tendency of his and capitulated to it by changing the schedules of our employees so that the most attractive women were scheduled to work when Mr. Trump was scheduled to be at the club.”
Another former employee recalled Trump holding her close and insisting that she have her picture taken with him, and inquiring as to whether she remained “happily married.”
According to testimony from one of the witnesses, Trump once demanded that a young hostess from the club restaurant be brought into a room where he was meeting with a group of men.
“Mr. Trump saw a young, attractive hostess working named Nicole.... She was Caucasian with blue eyes, dark hair and a slender build and directed that she be brought to a place where he was meeting with a group of men. After this woman had been presented, Mr. Trump said to his guests something like, “See, you don’t have to go to Hollywood to find beautiful women. He also turned to Nicole and asked her ‘Do you like Jewish men?’”
The Trump campaign, which has been working overtime on damage control after the first presidential debate, summarily dismissed all of the testimony in the lawsuit, telling the Times that the allegations were “meritless.”