More than 50 retired military leaders condemned Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump this week in a stunning rebuke to his struggling candidacy.
While former generals and other top brass often take political positions after leaving the military, the sheer number of signers and the vehemence of their objections to Trump made Tuesday’s letter extraordinary.
The signers, who included retired Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy – the first female three-star general in the United States – labelled Trump unfit for the presidency because of remarks he made in a 2005 audio tape during the filming on an ‘Access Hollywood’ episode.
In that now-infamous tape, Trump bragged about assaulting and groping women and said he could do whatever he wanted to women because he was a “star.”
“In a private conversation, [Trump] boasted of engaging in acts constituting sexual assault, violence, and aggression against women, and doing so from a position of power,” the letter states. “In this tape, he not only denigrated women – he dehumanized them, referring to one woman as ‘it’ and reducing the women discussed to body parts to be objectified.”
In the days that followed the release of the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape, more than a dozen women have come forward to accuse Trump of groping them.
Trump has adamantly denied all the allegations, including those brought by People magazine and its reporter Natasha Stoynoff. That allegation included claims that Trump assaulted Stoynoff while she visited his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla. for a story about the first anniversary of Trump’s marriage to his wife, Melania.
At rallies and in interviews, Trump has called the women unattractive and suggested they came forward as part of a conspiracy concocted by international businesses, the media and Democratic presidential nominee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
However, the generals who signed the letter clearly don’t agree. Instead, they say that Trump’s comments could lead to a military culture that makes women particularly vulnerable to discrimination of abuse.
“This behavior renders him utterly unworthy of being commander-in-chief and president,” the letter says. “If given such power, Donald Trump would create a command climate intolerant of women and incompatible with a trained, ready, and honorable military.”
Beyond their concerns about the tape and Trump’s other remarks, the military brass also raise major disagreements with Trump over the issue of military sexual assault.
In an interview with NBC News’ Matt Lauer during the ‘Commander-in-Chief Forum,’ Trump was cavalier about sexual assault in the military and said it was to be expected in a fighting force that put men and women together.
“Those of us who are women are keenly aware that equality within the armed forces been hard won and each of us has experience the ongoing battle for equality to some degree,” the letter writers fire back. “Some of us have ourselves experienced either sexual assault of sexual harassment during our service.”
The letter ends with a dramatic call condemning Trump – and the Republican leaders like Speaker Paul Ryan and Senator Mitch McConnell who continue to support him.
“As retired military professionals, we condemn Donald Trump in the strongest terms. We call for all those who have endorsed him to renounce their support, and remind them: history is watching,” the letter concludes.