Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
Last week, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford came forward publicly with her heart-wrenching testimony of sexual-assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh — one our president initially called “very compelling,” adding, “She looks like a very fine woman to me, very fine woman.”
But at a rally in Mississippi Tuesday night, Trump launched into a full-on mockery of Ford, imitating her and doubting her retelling of the alleged assault. “I had one beer,” he said, referring to Ford’s account of the night she says she was pinned down and nearly raped by Kavanaugh. “‘Nope. It was one beer.’ Oh good. How did you get home? ‘I don’t remember.’ How did you get there? ‘I don’t remember.’ Where is the place? ‘I don’t remember.’ How many years ago was it? ‘I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.’”
The crowd roared with laughter. But one zoomed-in shot of the rally on television, shared on Twitter, is particularly chilling; three men behind Trump are shown on camera clapping and laughing hysterically as they watch the president’s performance. Without Trump in the frame, you would think they’re at a real circus — or a comedy show.
One man elbows another, who throws his hands up and shakes his head. They look to one another — the ultimate expression of brotherly camaraderie. Mouth agape, one sits back and claps repeatedly, basking in the spectacle of a woman being derided and discredited. The shot perfectly embodies the crucible of the Kavanaugh hearing, where the mechanics of fraternal bonding at the expense of women’s bodies has been dissected and defended before the entire nation. Where things men do behind closed doors are given full light — and a woman’s word remains the butt of the joke.
Ford, of course, did not want to be publicly outed in this way. She submitted a letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein describing the alleged assault, requesting to keep the information confidential, before coming forward out of fear that her identity would be revealed without her consent otherwise. Testifying in front of the nation would effectively force her to relive the assault in its excruciating detail, from the staircase to the bed to her recollection of the drunken laughter of Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge.
“Indelible in the hippocampus is the laugher,” Ford said during the hearing. “The uproarious laughter between the two, and their having fun at my expense.” It’s difficult to watch these men at the Trump rally without hearing the echo of that laughter.