It's happening so often it hardly seems worth saying things like "this isn't normal" anymore. It's time to accept that the President-elect of the United States of America is a man who uses his Twitter account to settle scores and hit back against sleights, both real and imagined. Now, a college student who questioned Trump and was threatened into silence after he mentioned her in a tweet is finally speaking out. And her story, and the stories of other everyday Americans who Trump has put in the cross hairs of his rabid Twitter following, are a chilling sign of how the most powerful man in the world will handle dissent and criticism while in office — 140 characters, and millions of angry and dangerous supporters, at a time.
Lauren Batchelder was an 17-year-old college freshman in October 2015 when she attended a political forum in New Hampshire, where Trump was speaking, according to the Washington Post. During the event she stood up and said, “So, maybe I’m wrong, maybe you can prove me wrong, but I don’t think you’re a friend to women."
Trump then gave his standard response about the women he's promoted within his company, and repeated the condescending refrain from the campaign trail, "I love women, I respect women, I cherish women," according to the Washington Post.
Batchelder wasn't satisfied with that answer and asked for the mic again and said, “I want to 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 then seemed to become irritated that he was being challenged and snapped back, “You’re going to make the same if you do as good of a job, and I happen to be pro-life, okay?" The next morning Trump tweeted this attack. Again, please remember this was against a 17-year-old girl:
Apparently, she did intern for Jeb Bush, but as she pointed out to The Washington Post, Bush is anti-abortion. If he wanted to plant an operative in the arena, why would be have someone press him on a woman's right to choose? No matter, once the tweet was out there, Trump world got to work with posts like these:
But, for Trump's trolls, these images and her affiliation with the Bush campaign made her the enemy. And what followed was what she described as a year of harassment and threats from Trump supporters. She hasn't spoken out about the experience, until now. Batchelder told the Post:
I didn’t really know what anyone was going to do. He was only going to tweet about it and that was it, but I didn’t really know what his supporters were going to do, and that to me was the scariest part.
Here's just a sampling of the kind of messages she claimed she received from Trump supporters, this one less than a week before the election, according to the Post.
"Wishing I could f---ing punch you in the face," the Facebook message read. "id 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."
Batchelder isn't alone. The New York Times has kept a running tally of the "People, Places and Things Donald Trump Has Insulted on Twitter." It includes everyone from magician Penn Jillette to department store Macy's. But when some of his more than 17 million followers on Twitter begin sending threats of violence to a private citizen for exercising their First Amendment right, to the President of the United States no less, it's a scary proposition. And the fact that Trump doesn't condemn their actions is even scarier. Trump's transition team hasn't responded to Romper's request for comment.
Just this week, Trump lashed out at union leader Chuck Jones after he said Trump lied about the number of jobs he saved at Carrier, The Hill reported. In fact Jones said Trump "lied his ass off" about the deal. According to the Wall Street Journal, Jones said in an interview on Wednesday that he's received death threats following Trump's tweets against him.
Asked about his Twitter antics by Matt Lauer on TODAY, Trump said he didn't see anything wrong with how he uses social media. The president-elect said:
I think I am very restrained, and I talk about important things. That’s a modern day form of communication. I get it out much more faster than a press release. I get it out much more honestly than dealing with dishonest reporters.
Then Trump went on to complain about Saturday Night Live and Alec Baldwin's impression of him, which he called "mean spirited."
Apparently irony isn't his thing.
American presidents get criticized. All the time. Voters deserve answers from their leadership in a democracy. How is Trump going to react to insults when he's got the power to turn the CIA, IRS, FBI, and the nuclear codes against his enemies if he can't censor himself on social media (or condemn the mass amount of follower he has who support violence)? It' going to be a crazy four years folks.