Donald Trump was in Manchester, N.H., Monday morning for the Problem Solvers Convention, an event put on by No Labels, a non-partisan organization that, per its mission statement, believes “the prevailing hurdle preventing our nation’s progress isn’t disagreement over particular policies” but “an attitude” of division. (Related: hmm.)
The Republican presidential frontrunner spent most of his allotted time talking about how he is a problem solver because he built an ice skating rink in Central Park, but things got interesting when a woman in the audience told him, bluntly: “Maybe I’m wrong, maybe you can prove me wrong, but I don’t think you’re a friend to women.”
Trump responded, first, by saying, “I knew I shouldn’t have picked her.”
I respect women incredibly. I have had women working for me in positions that they’ve never worked in terms of construction, in terms of so many different jobs. I had a woman who was in charge of the building of Trump Tower, many years ago, before anybody would have even thought of it, and did a fantastic job. I have given women more opportunity than I would say virtually anybody in the construction industry.
I have a daughter named Ivanka and a wife named Melania who constantly want me to talk about women’s health issues because they know how I feel about it and they know how I feel about women. I respect women, I love women, I cherish women. You know, Hillary Clinton said, “he shouldn’t cherish,” well I said, I do cherish, I love women…. I will take care of women, and I have great respect for women. I do cherish women. And I will take care of women.
Trump’s stated commitment to women’s health came, tellingly, just moments after he responded to another question about Republican threats to shutter the government: “Well, they don’t want Planned Parenthood funded, and I think a lot of people understand that, including me.” (Related: according to national polls, a majority of people do not understand that.)
But his non-response about cherishing women didn’t satisfy the questioner, who held the mic and offered a more direct follow up: “I want to get paid the same as a man, and I think you understand that,” she said. “So if you become president will a woman make the same as a man and will I get to choose what I do with my body?”
“You’re gonna make the same if you do as good a job,” Trump shot back. “And I happen to be pro-life. OK? I’m pro-life.”
Trump has made statements in the past suggesting that he supports equal pay as a concept, but his most detailed comments to date don’t reveal a thing about the policies he does or doesn’t support when it comes to making that happen.
Back in August, Trump told Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski that “women should have absolute access to capital,” but quickly added: “When it comes to categorizing people, men and women into a group, it gets to be very dangerous.”
“When you have to categorize men and women into a particular group and a particular pay scale, it gets very—because people do different jobs,” he continued. “It’s very hard to say what is the same job. It’s a very, very tricky question. And I talked about competition with other places and other parts of the world, Mika. This is one of the things we have to look at very strongly.”
For Trump, it’s clear Monday was not the day to do that.
🔥🔥🔥 UPDATE: CAMPAIGN INTRIGUE ALERT 🔥🔥🔥
The woman who asked the question, an 18-year-old college student named Lauren Batchelder, is also an intern for Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign. The Bush campaign confirmed that Batchelder is an unpaid volunteer, but denied allegations that she was a “plant” at the event.
Bush, like Trump, opposes abortion rights, supports defunding Planned Parenthood, and recently had to walk back a comment he made in August about not being “sure” that the U.S. needed “half a billion dollars for women’s health issues.” When asked in 2014 about federal equal pay legislation, Bush responded by asking “What’s the Paycheck Fairness Act?” and has since said that he believes existing laws are sufficient to ensure equal pay.