The same day Time magazine designated "The Silence Breakers" 2017's Person of the Year, Gloria Steinem called President Trump the "harasser in chief." Speaking at the Massachusetts Conference for Women on Wednesday, the feminist icon explained that a national reckoning around sexual assault must also include the man leading the country. While Trump remains in office, she believes "The Silence Breakers" will be the ones to speak truth to power.
"Clearly at this point in time, we are gaining our voices in a way that's never happened before," Steinem told the audience. She added that the #MeToo movement will press on — and must — while the person occupying the Oval Office is someone accused of sexual assault.
"He's not the president," Steinem said of Trump. "He lost by 10 million votes. I never called him president once. He's the harasser in chief and part of the reason, at this point, people are so frustrated."
However, Steinem wouldn't say whether or not she believed Senator Al Franken should resign amid sexual misconduct allegations. Franken announced on Thursday that he will step aside "in the coming weeks," but Steinem said the day before she thinks his situation is different than Trump's. "[Franken] did own up and he did apologize, and we need to understand there's a difference. ... The truly bad guys don't apologize, they try to destroy the person who accused them" she told WCVB.
While Franken did apologize after the first woman accused him of acting inappropriately, he continues to deny every allegation, and he reiterated his denial on Thursday.
Franken even brought up the multiple accusations against the "harasser in chief," as Steinem called him, while resigning. Franken said:
There is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party.
Steinem and Franken aren't the only ones frustrated by the fact that the #MeToo movement has brought down powerful men in film and journalism while the most powerful man accused of assault keeps his job. Women voiced this frustration on Twitter following Time's Person of the Year reveal, noting that Trump was included among the accused in the magazine's profile of "The Silence Breakers."
The 83-year-old activist has been vocal about her opposition to President Trump from the beginning. She said in June the "only good news of Trump" is the amount of activism his presidency has produced. She added:
Trump believes in nothing. The key to him is that he will lash out against any criticism, however small, and he will follow any praise wherever it goes. He has no idea what the facts are. I do not underestimate the danger of having a crazy person at the levers of power.
During her talk, Steinem called for MGM to release tapes of Trump's time hosting The Apprentice, presumably hoping to find incriminating footage. She also took one more dig at the Republican Party as a whole by praising the state's governor. "Glad to be in a state where the governor helps keep us from seeing the Republican Party being taken over by the invasion of the body-snatchers," she said, referring to Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker.
While on the subject of sexual assault, she also made the point that violence against women isn't about sex — it's about power. With that in mind, she wants to see men in power held accountable when they touch women without consent. For her, #MeToo won't be over until it reaches the "harasser in chief."