Back in October 2015, while Donald Trump’s candidacy was still in its infancy, he attended a town hall Q&A in Manchester, New Hampshire, where he was confronted by a college freshman who questioned him on women’s rights and the gender pay gap. The exchange, captured on video, made national headlines at the time and went viral on social media for obvious reasons: A brave young woman had stood up to Trump on his views and treatment of women — an issue that was still emerging as a controversial one surrounding Trump’s White House bid. Now, that young woman is speaking out and revealing the horrible abuse and cyberbullying she was subjected to in the wake of the exchange.
The young woman was identified as Lauren Batchelder, an 18-year-old student at Saint Anselm College in Manchester. Batchelder told Trump that he didn’t seem like “a friend to women,” and added, “I wanna get paid the same as a man and I think you understand that. So, if you become president, will a woman make the same as a man? And do I get to choose what I do with my body?”
Trump responded, “You’re gonna make the same if you do as good a job,” and then added that he’s pro-life. Here’s a video clip of the exchange.
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By the next day, Trump had slammed Batchelder on Twitter as an “arrogant young woman,” suggesting, after reports surfaced that she was an intern for the Jeb Bush campaign, that she had been sent there as “a plant.”
Batchelder, now 19, hasn’t spoken publicly about what followed that tweet — until now, in an interview with Washington Post reporter Jenna Johnson. Batchelder decided to speak out about how Trump, whose use of Twitter has all but made him America’s troll-in-chief, affects everyday people when he bashes them on the social media platform. Just this week, Trump unleashed a tirade on an Indiana union leader who had accused Trump of lying about the specifics of a deal with Carrier to save American jobs. “I didn’t really know what his supporters were going to do, and that to me was the scariest part,” she told The Washington Post about her immediate thoughts following Trump’s tweet. She found out in swift order.
For Batchelder, what followed was a siege of harassment, including sexually explicit remarks and violent threats sent via social media. “Wishing I could f***ing punch you in the face,” one angry Trump supporter wrote to her in a Facebook message. “id [sic] then proceed to stomp your head on the curb and urinate in your bloodied mouth and i know where you live, so watch your f***ing back punk,” the threatening message concluded.
“I love social media, but I also saw the terrible side of social media,” Batchelder said, noting that she declined interview requests from the press and tried to ignore the phalanx of trolls that accosted her online. “I definitely tried to focus on something else because when you’re seeing your life being played out in front of you and people are judging it and people are making assumptions about you, you kind of just want to stay away.”
Batchelder wants Trump to stop slamming people on Twitter because as a candidate and, with even greater influence when he becomes president, he has the power to embolden the worst in people. As Women in the World founder Tina Brown put it, he’s “empowered the lout in everyone.” The converse of that is that Trump also wields tremendous power for good, as Batchelder notes, saying she hopes as president he uses Twitter “to uplift others.”
Melania Trump has indicated that her chief agenda as first lady will be addressing cyberbullying — a statement that has drawn sharp criticism given her husband’s social media proclivities. Because as Batchelder’s experiences demonstrate, Trump’s outbursts on Twitter are stinging alone, but the cascade of cyberbullying they set off — like one of the grotesque photos sent to her by a Trump supporter — are downright dangerous.
Read the full story at The Washington Post.