President Donald Trump’s 1992 interview with Charlie Rose is quite revealing, but no moment stands out more than his defense of Mike Tyson, who had then just been found guilty of rape. Trump’s vindication of the boxer is well-documented, but it’s especially relevant as the president attempts to “rebrand” himself as someone who respects women.
Trump launches his defense by arguing that Tyson was unfairly represented (even though he paid millions for the best lawyer “within 100 miles”) and questioning whether he deserved jail time. In February of 1992, Tyson was convicted of raping an 18-year-old Miss Black America contestant in a Indianapolis, IN. Trump’s interview with Charlie Rose took place in May.
Skip to the 10-minute mark in the video to watch Trump and Rose’s discussion of the verdict.
“I watched how badly he was represented by an attorney in Washington that was charging him $3, $4, or $5 million against a local attorney, the best within 100 miles, that the state hired who just ate the other man’s lunch,” Trump said.
Continuing, Trump explains why exactly he believes Tyson is innocent — and his logic is stomach churning. “I heard about a girl that, late in the evening, knocked on his door, was taken in, was raped perhaps, perhaps not,” Trump argues. “Number one, she knocks late in the night. Number two, she’s dancing in a beauty contest at 8:00 a.m. [the next day]. I saw the tapes. I see the big smile on her face. She’s dancing happily at 8:00 a.m.”
There’s a lot of astounding ignorance to unpack here. What is perhaps most disturbing is Trump’s shameless and consistent victim-blaming; he’s insinuating that the victim not only enjoyed the rape, but somehow, because she went to work the next morning, that Tyson is innocent. Sadly this view seems consistent with what we’ve already seen from Trump and his penchant for unwanted sexual advances.
Later in the interview, Trump reiterates his “she asked for it” stance. “Again, she was in a beauty contest. She was dancing with a big smile on her face at 8:00 a.m.,” Trump claimed.
Given that Trump is a purveyor of beauty contests, it is particularly odd that he appears to associate being in a beauty contest with somehow being culpable for one’s rape. Trump also had an invested interest in defending Tyson: the heavyweight champion earned Trump millions through fights he hosted at his Atlantic City, NJ, casinos.
Ultimately, Trump’s victim-blaming and defense of sexual assault are sadly unsurprising. If he remained a real-estate mogul turned reality TV star, it would be distressing but not nearly as disturbing as it is now since he is president of the United States.