To say Donald Trump is a misogynist isn’t exactly accurate. He likes women, but only a very specific type of woman. He likes the kind of woman who is malleable, who is compliant. He is absolutely allergic to outspoken women. Which is why women like E. Jean Carroll (and Nikki Haley) have really gotten under his skin by standing up to him.
When Carroll first came public with her sexual assault allegations against Trump back in 2019—for which we was found liable last year—the former president subjected her to a smear campaign just as he did with his others who have spoken out about him (like Stormy Daniels) and with his political rivals (like Hillary Clinton). Trump accused Carroll of fabricating everything: He claimed that she was a “wack job” orchestrating a “con job”—and even insisted, as a quasi-defense, that she was “not my type.” Carroll then filed a subsequent defamation lawsuit alleging that Trump tore her reputation “to shreds.” In the end, a jury agreed: Last week, in an incredible culmination of the multiyear ordeal, Trump was ordered to pay her $83.3 million in damages. And yet, even after the dust had settled, Trump had the gall—or foolishness—to spew yet more invective at Carroll, calling her case a “hoax” and claiming it was a miscarriage of justice.
I have a connection to this case: I introduced her to attorney George Conway, who eventually helped her find legal representation.
If Carroll’s trial revealed anything, it was that women—and particularly outspoken women—trigger Trump. From Megyn Kelly and Rosie O’Donnell to Kamala Harris and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, women of all stripes have felt the wrath of the ex-president’s sexism. As Sophie Gilbert wrote last month in The Atlantic, “The misogyny that Trump embodies and champions is less about loathing than enforcement: underscoring his requirement that women look and behave a certain way, that we comply with his desires and submit to our required social function.” You can, in other words, be a woman in Trump’s world—but only if you’re the kind of woman Trump likes.
Which is why former UN ambassador Nikki Haley, who is continuing a long shot presidential bid against Trump, is fast becoming his new bête noire. Trump has openly critiqued one of her dresses; has mocked her given name, Nimrata, and has taken to calling her a “birdbrain.” Trump even attacks Haley when he doesn’t mean to: Last week, during a speech in New Hampshire, Trump confused her with Nancy Pelosi while repeating a baseless conspiracy theory about the January 6 attack. “Nikki Haley…do you know they destroyed all of the information, all of the evidence, everything, deleted and destroyed all of it?” he said, suggesting that Democrats deliberately turned down security at the Capitol. “All of it, because of lots of things, like Nikki Haley is in charge of security. We offered her 10,000 people, soldiers, National Guard, whatever they want. They turned it down.”
Despite his incessant insistence on being mentally sharper than ever, Trump has, in fact, conflated Pelosi and Haley seven—yes, seven—times. And Haley, for her part, has jumped on the opportunity to highlight this point of confusion. “Last night, Trump is at a rally and he’s going on and on, mentioning me several times as to why I didn’t take security during the Capitol riots,” as she told a crowd in New Hampshire earlier this month. “Why I didn’t handle January 6 better. I wasn’t even in DC on January 6. I wasn’t in office then.”
Though they might sit on different sides of the aisle, Pelosi and Haley do have one commonality: They are both women who have successfully gotten under Trump’s skin. They have weathered the costs of being chief Trump antagonists, and they are not alone. Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis, who is bringing a RICO case against Trump for attempting to interfere in Georgia’s 2020 election, has been subjected to death threats and racist slurs from Trump’s supporters. The same can be said for New York attorney general Letitia James, who is bringing an enormous civil fraud case against Trump. (James, like Carroll, has actually gotten Trump to appear in court—which may speak to how much he prizes his family real estate business, no doubt a cornerstone of his billionaire mythos.)