In a country where some of our leaders (and those sitting on the highest court in the land) are accused of sexual assault, we can only hope that their ability to maintain their positions doesn’t embolden would-be-assailants.
Not the case for 49-year-old Bruce Michael Alexander of Tampa, Fl., who was arrested Sunday after a woman sitting in front of him on a Southwest Airlines flight accused him of fondling her breasts while she was sleeping. While he was in custody, Alexander reportedly cited Donald Trump’s comments about women and told authorities that “the President of the United States says it’s ok to grab women by their private parts,” as justification for his actions.
According to a criminal complaint cited by the Washington Post, the woman felt a hand reach from behind her on the flight and touch the right side of her breast near her “bra line.” After she felt a second touch, she stood up and told Alexander, who was sitting behind her, that she didn’t know why he thought his behavior was okay and that he needed to stop. She changed seats, and Alexander was arrested once the aircraft landed in New Mexico.
Alexander reportedly asked authorities why he was being arrested and then made the comment about the president saying it’s okay “to grab women by their private parts.” He was likely referring to an Access Hollywood tape that captures audio of a 2005 interview in which Trump brags to television host Billy Bush about what he feels he’s entitled to do to women.
“You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything,” Trump says in the audio.
Bush repeats, “Whatever you want,” and Trump follows with what’s now become his infamous pussy line: “Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”
Alexander’s remarks have started a discussion about the very real consequences of the president’s rhetoric toward women. Some have worried that Trump’s vulgar comments might embolden men to also disrespect women and repeat patterns of misogyny and harassment. That someone arrested for sexual assault can now point to the president and claim that he “says it’s ok” to grab women in an inappropriate way seems to confirm the fears of many.
The Southwest incident unfolds at a time when stories of sexual assault have pervaded political news. Judge Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court, even after being accused of assaulting Christine Blasey Ford in 1982. A highly divisive and publicized hearing put Ford’s story of alleged assault at the center of the national conversation.
The president himself has also been accused of harassing multiple women. He also has a long history of calling women disparaging names, referring to them as “dogs” and “pigs,” and most recently called adult female star Stormy Daniels “horse face.” He has also questioned women who have come forward with claims of sexual assault, mocking Ford at a rally and suggesting that sexual assault protesters are paid professionals.