Over the course of Donald Trump's campaign, many military officials have denounced the GOP nominee, citing his alleged lack of knowledge on foreign policy and bombastic rhetoric, while others have rallied around Trump's nationalistic agenda. But for one group of retired officers, one issue was a tipping point: Trump's treatment of women.
More than 50 retired general and flag officers signed a letter Tuesday declaring Trump unfit for the presidency. The letter points to, among other things, allegations that Trump sexually assaulted women and his general treatment of women as the primary reason he would not be an effective commander-in-chief.
"Our commander-in-chief sets the tone for what is acceptable for our nation. Last Friday, a video surfaced in which Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump made extremely disturbing statements about women. In a private conversation, he boasted of engaging in acts constituting sexual assault, violence, and aggression against women, and doing so from a position of power. In this tape, he not only denigrated women—he dehumanized them, referring to one woman as “it” and reducing the women discussed to body parts to be objectified," read the letter, which was published by the Wall Street Journal.
"This behavior renders him utterly unworthy of being commander-in-chief and president. If given such power, Donald Trump would create a command climate intolerant of women and incompatible with a trained, ready, and honorable military."
Three retired four-star generals and nine three-star officers, as well as officers from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Army National Guard, were among the military officials adding their names to the letter. The officials reference the 2005 audio recording during an interview Trump had with then-Access Hollywood host Billy Bush, published by the Washington Post, in which Trump made lewd comments about women and spoke casually about sexual assault.
"The American people deserve better than a misogynist in chief. Donald Trump’s behavior is antithetical to American values," they wrote.
The letter states that Trump's history with women would render him incapable of effectively addressing sexual assault within the U.S. military, which remains an alarming pervasive issue. Over 20,000 military service members, including 10,600 men and 9,600 women were the victims of sexual assault in 2014, according to a Department of Defense-commissioned study. The study found that 85 percent of those victims did not report the crime and that the majority did not have faith in the military's justice system or their chain of command to address their assaults.
Trump courted controversy in September after a tweet appeared to blame the sexual assault issue on the military's policy of allowing women to serve.
During a town hall with NBC's Matt Lauer later that month, Trump shied away from saying that the military should remove women from active duty and vowed to address the issue as president.
"The numbers are staggering, hard to believe it even — but we're gonna have to run it very tight. I, at the same time, want to keep the court system within the military. I don't think it should be outside of the military," Trump said.