To hear Trump tell it, you’d think that Theresa May fainted after the Westminster attack.
Theresa May is a strong woman.
The first female British prime minister since Margaret Thatcher, and the second in history, has had to weather the turbulent storms of Westminster’s raucous political culture, constantly fending off the schoolboy-like taunts of opponents during regular appearances before Parliament. She’s also had to guide her nation through a harrowing period of uncertainty, with Brexit and an illiberal U.S. president threatening to upend the post-war order that has made Britain, and London in particular, a hub of international commerce.
In other words, she’s perfectly capable of handling Wednesday’s small-scale terror attack in London that resulted in single-digit deaths and minimal disruption.
But to hear President Donald Trump tell it, you’d think that May fainted when she heard the news of the carnage. He tweeted the following on Wednesday evening:
Spoke to U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May today to offer condolences on the terrorist attack in London. She is strong and doing very well.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 23, 2017
At first glance, Trump’s tweet may seem unremarkable. It’s standard fare for politicians to offer condolences in times of tragedy, which is exactly what Trump does here. But a quick skim of the tweet’s second sentence reveals that, beneath his sympathies, Donald believes that May’s health and/or strength must be in question because, well, she’s a woman!
That Trump’s tweet has sexist undertones is apparent when viewed alongside his statements in the aftermath of other international tragedies. After a man attacked French soldiers at the Louvre in February, Trump made no reference to French President Francois Hollande’s health:
A new radical Islamic terrorist has just attacked in Louvre Museum in Paris. Tourists were locked down. France on edge again. GET SMART U.S.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 3, 2017
Similarly, after an attack in Israel, there was no mention of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s strength:
The Palestinian terror attack today reminds the world of the grievous perils facing Israeli citizens….continued:https://t.co/d2Upx5FitC
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 9, 2016
And Trump refrained from commenting on Iraqi Prime Minister al-Abadi after a massive attack in Baghdad:
The third mass attack (slaughter) in days by ISIS. 200 dead in Baghdad, worst in many years. We do not have leadership that can stop this!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 4, 2016
There’s a clear pattern here – if an attack happens in a country with a male leader, Trump is unconcerned about his health. After all, he is a man, full of testosterone and virility – no worries there!
But if an attack happens in a state led by a woman, Trump feels compelled to assure us of her strength. It’s as if he’s saying, “Don’t worry folks – the dear, sweet, fragile Member of Parliament was able to recover after swooning with fright. Aren’t you glad we’re led by an alpha male like me?”
Some may say I’m reading too much into Trump’s tweet, and I may be. After all, Trump made no mention of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s health after a July 2016 attack in Munich. And May was at Westminster when the attack happened, so Trump might have thought that people had legitimate questions about her safety.
Like I said, it’s possible that Trump’s comments on May are not an expression of his inner sexist. But given Trump’s constant jabs at Hillary Clinton’s health, and his long history of sexist and misogynistic statements, I think it’s more than likely that Trump’s tweet signals that he thinks that May is a weak and fragile woman not up to the task of dealing with what is clearly men’s work (sarcasm).