On Thursday, a 71-year-old white man tweeted something sexist and cruel.
He referred to Mika Brzezinski, cohost of MSNBC’s weekday show Morning Joe, as “I.Q. Crazy Mika” and said she was “bleeding badly from a face-lift” this past New Year’s Eve.
It was a hateful, direct attack. It was clearly harassment.
You probably already guessed the abuser in this situation: the president of the United States. The vitriol dripping from his personal Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump, just isn’t surprising anymore. What remains shocking, though, and what has become inexcusable is Twitter’s role in spreading hate by not banning him like they have other high-profile abusers.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has said the company was taking harassment on the platform seriously. Unfortunately, that commitment only occurred after an in-depth story about their previous failures and unwillingness to act, and after actress Leslie Jones publicly abandoned the platform, citing the harassment she faced.
Following Jones’ departure, Twitter finally decided to permanently ban one of her harassers, Milo Yiannopoulos. Twitter does not comment on individual accounts, per policy, but surprisingly the company did tell Breitbart he was permanently banned for violating “prohibiting participating in or inciting targeted abuse of individuals.”
We don’t always know when people are banned or permanently suspended from Twitter. But Milo’s removal was quite public. So was the permanent removal of Martin Shkreli, the so-called “pharma bro.” Shkreli was banned after many cringeworthy attacks at journalist Lauren Duca, which included creating collages of the two of them together.
Yiannopoulos, Shkreli, and Trump are quite different people, of course. Trump is a real estate mogul, former host of the The Celebrity Apprentice, and, most recently, president of the United States. And yet, all have incited targeted abuse.
But Trump remains on the platform, and he arguably has more power, meaning his horrendous tweets have further reach. That’s even more reason for Twitter to act. In fact, Trump is breaking the platform because it can’t handle the overwhelming number of responses his tweets receive.
And while most of Trump’s comments are polarizing, Republicans and Democrats are united in believing the president shouldn’t be allowed to spread such hateful messages. It’s not presidential.
From South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who ran against Trump:
Mr. President, your tweet was beneath the office and represents what is wrong with American politics, not the greatness of America.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) June 29, 2017
From Rep. Barbara Lee, a Democrat from California:
From Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska,
Stop it! The Presidential platform should be used for more than bringing people down.
— Sen. Lisa Murkowski (@lisamurkowski) June 29, 2017
From Sen. Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts:
If you can’t stifle the press, then you attack them personally. Today’s tweets from Donald Trump are unpresidential and warrant an apology.
— Ed Markey (@SenMarkey) June 29, 2017
From Rep. Lynn Jenkins of Kansas, a Republican:
From Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, a Democrat:
From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi:
That’s bipartisan consensus that the president rarely receives.
Thursday’s tweets directed at Brzezinski were just the latest inexcusable words to come from the president’s mouth via Twitter, which has included:
The time he incited a riot:
Bernie Sanders is lying when he says his disruptors aren’t told to go to my events. Be careful Bernie, or my supporters will go to yours!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 13, 2016
Racist implications, like the time he retweeted the account @WhiteGenocideTM, and sexism.
26,000 unreported sexual assults in the military-only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 7, 2013
But what’s Twitter going to do about it? Is Trump immune from being banned on the platform?
Sure, Trump is reputed. As shown above, people from all over the world and elected officials can use the very same platform to speak out against whatever Trump tweets. My colleague Adario Strange wrote in January, “Trump must be allowed to continue to tweet simply because it is our best and most transparent method of knowing the thoughts and opinions of someone who has, at least politically, frequently defied logic.”
That’s similar logic to what Dorsey has said.
On the 10th anniversary of Twitter last year when Trump was a presidential candidate, Today anchor Matt Lauer asked, “Donald Trump, a frontrunner on the Republican side uses Twitter as a megaphone to promote and attack. Is that Twitter at its best?”
Dorsey said, “As a microphone [Twitter] is at its best. He uses it certainly to reach out to folks and to understand what they’re talking about and also to have conversations, very simply.”
In May 2017, on NBC’s Sunday Today, Dorsey was again asked about Trump’s use of the platform.
“I’m sure you’ve heard from people … ‘How can you give this man a platform to say all the things he’s been saying?'” asked host Willie Geist. “How do you respond to them?”
“I believe that it’s really important to hear directly from leadership, and I believe it’s really important to hold them accountable, and I believe it’s really important to have these conversations out in the open rather than have them behind closed doors. Um, so, if we were all to suddenly take these platforms away, where does it go? What happens?” Dorsey said.
According to Dorsey, the conversation — no matter what it’s about — “goes on in the dark, and I just don’t think that’s good for anyone, and I would rather us all be aware of how people are thinking about things, even if we disagree with them, then not.”
So, you’re right, Jack. Trump’s tweets disparaging Brzezinski incited a conversation, on Twitter and on television, for the most part, condemning the malicious tweets.
But Twitter still seems to be promoting and protecting Trump while he’s violating its policies. What if I had tweeted the same thing against Brzezinski? And what if thousands of people reported me, including Brzezinski?
We don’t know.
A Twitter spokesperson said in an emailed statement, “We do not comment on individual accounts for privacy and security reasons.”