On Monday, Donald Trump aide Sebastian Gorka said that Jake Tapper's treatment of Kellyanne Conway in an interview was an example of sexism. The topic of sexism has had a hold on the headlines for the last few weeks — and arguably throughout the entire presidential election. Still, discussions about sexism have gotten even more attention thanks to the Women's March.
Thus, it's no wonder that Gorka would try to latch on to the larger debates and concerns about sexism as a way to push back against a network Trump has described as "fake news." But Tapper's line of questioning was not sexist — and Gorka's criticism is troubling. The more that sexism is invoked as a false flag, the more that true claims of sexism lose their power.
In an interview with The Hill, Gorka said that that way that Tapper treated Conway in a 25-minute interview last week was starkly different from the way Gorka himself was treated on Tapper's show recently. In the interview, Tapper confronted Conway about the Trump administration's relationship with the truth. Tapper specifically cited the false crime statistics perpetuated by Trump and the president's accusations that the media doesn't cover terrorist attacks, as well as the fake "Bowling Green massacre" that Conway used to defend the administration's travel ban.
Gorka said that Tapper's tone was "disappointing," and that "it was trying to treat a woman as a punching bag, really. It was clear." When asked whether he thought the interview was sexist, Gorka replied that he hoped it wasn't, but went on to pose the question, "Why her? Why Kellyanne? Why be so aggressive with her and not with me? Hard to answer."
Except that it isn't. Gorka's allusion to sexism in the Tapper-Conway interview is unfounded and misdirected. His focusing only on the difference in gender between the two as the only possible reason for their different treatment calls on viewers to ignore the substance of the interview.
To say that Conway was grilled by Tapper only because of her gender severely downplays her role in the administration. She is a senior adviser. She has been a prominent face in the Trump camp since the campaign. In fact, she holds much more power than Gorka is giving her credit for by calling her a "punching bag." She knows exactly what she is doing by spreading false information, and she deserves to suffer to consequences.
Additionally, Gorka invoking sexism creates a "boy who cried wolf" scenario that, if continued, will cause the public to be so overloaded by false claims of sexism that they will tune out when real misogyny is being called out. We are already being called a bunch of whiny snowflakes by opponents who don't want to believe that sexism still exists or is a big deal anymore. Instances like these only undermine attempts to force people to recognize sexism as a continuous issue in our country.
That's not to say that Conway hasn't faced her share of sexism since her rise to fame during Trump's campaign. However, holding her feet to the fire for the falsehoods she has perpetuated, that's a good interview.