Donald Trump's Loud, Proud and Pissed Off Female Supporters

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YouTube star sisters Lynette “Diamond” Hardaway, left, and Rochelle “Silk” Richardson got to meet their candidate at a rally in South Carolina in February. Geno Ho/Diamond and Silk

When Diamond and Silk learned that Donald Trump planned to boycott a Republican debate in January and instead hold a televised fundraiser for veterans, they flew to his event in Des Moines, Iowa. When Trump staffers invited them on stage, the sisters addressed the crowd for eight minutes, praising the real estate mogul for pledging to care for U.S. veterans and urging voters to stump for him. “He has you in mind,” Lynette Hardaway, who goes by the stage name Diamond, said at the podium, just four days before the Iowa caucuses kicked off the primary election season.

“We chose to go there ourselves because that was a special moment; finally, somebody is doing something for our veterans,” Rochelle Richardson, known as Silk, tells Newsweek. That special moment was a long time coming: It wasn’t until four months later that Trump, amid media reports questioning where the fundraiser money had gone, donated $5.6 million to veterans’ groups, a figure that included $1 million from his own wallet. (Trump later fired back at the “dishonest” press, saying he shouldn’t be lambasted “for doing such a good job.”)

Diamond and Silk obviously aren’t alone in their admiration for Trump—he romped through the Republican primary—but their enthusiasm for him is significant because they are black and women, two demographics Trump has not been actively courting—or enthralling. In this election, voters are strongly sorted by gender and race, and Trump, who has been divorced twice and now is on his third marriage, has very negative ratings among U.S. women—a Quinnipiac University poll in late June showed that 63 percent of women held an unfavorable view of him. And his standing couldn’t be much worse among African-American voters, with the poll showing just 1 percent backing him. Since the majority of voters are women, and a female candidate is expected to be on the ballot in November for the first time, this could be a big deal for Trump. But not a good one.

In every age group, women are more supportive of Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, than men. The former secretary of state downplayed gender in her 2008 run for the nomination, but now, in her second bid for the White House, she is reaching out and appealing to women—much more than Trump, anyway. Speaking to Cincinnati’s WKRC-TV in early July, Trump said his numbers with women “are starting to get very strong…. I’m working very hard on the whole situation with the women, and I think I’m doing really well.” Jennifer Maloney, a stay-at-home mother from Ball Ground, Georgia, doesn’t think gender is a reason to vote for Trump’s likely opponent in November. “Hillary Clinton is extremely sexist,” she says. “She’s always obsessing over gender and people’s colors of their skin.”

While Trump has accused Clinton of playing the “woman’s card,” some, like Gloria Steinem, counter that he plays the “masculinity card,” threatening to “bomb the hell out of ISIS,” encouraging supporters to “knock the crap out of” protesters and even boasting about the size of his penis. Some women are offended by this strutting; some love his boldness and cheeky rhetoric. Tina Hillstrom is one of four core members of Real Women 4 Trump, friends who meet weekly in Los Angeles to produce videos they hope will persuade other Americans to support their man. “It’s like watching a comic book character. Like Superman or Batman all combined into one. He’s my citizen-hero,” Hillstrom says. She was set to go to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this month to support Trump as a delegate at-large representing California.

In the fall of 2015, Diamond and Silk ditched their lifelong loyalty to the Democratic Party to back Trump. They are reluctant to disclose their ages to Newsweek, other than to confirm that they are “old enough to vote.” And guess who gets their vote. “When the current administration calls you a racist or a bigot because you don’t agree with [the president’s] policies, we knew we weren’t going to vote for no Hillary Clinton,” Diamond says. “Our eyes came open when Donald Trump announced he was running for president.”

07_13_Trump_Woman_02 Trump autographs a supporter's chest following his speech at a campaign rally at Prince William County Fair Grounds December 2, 2015, in Manassas, Virginia. Cliff Owen/AP

The North Carolina–based sisters gained national attention when they posted a four-minute video to their YouTube channel, called The Viewers View, lashing out at Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly a day after her confrontation with Trump during the first Republican debate, on August 6. They were upset that Kelly asked Trump about reports that he’d referred to certain women as “fat pigs,” “dogs,” “slobs” and “disgusting animals.” (Trump interrupted her to say he had used those words to describe “only Rosie O’Donnell.”) The exchange set off a feud between Trump and Kelly, whom he later called a “lightweight” and said had “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever” to explain why she had pressed him at the debate. (Trump later tweeted that he meant there was blood coming out of Kelly’s nose.) Months later, he dismissed his disparaging comments about women, telling CNN he doesn’t recall many of them. The ones he could remember, though, he said were simply “show business.”

Diamond and Silk, who got to meet the billionaire backstage at a North Carolina rally in December, often host Women United for Trump events to bring together females of different ethnicities and demographics in support of the mogul. “Women need to see strong men that don’t waver and don’t back down, so he makes us feel like women,” Diamond says.

Throughout his campaign, Trump has said “nobody respects women more than I do,” without providing much evidence, and many of his positions have alienated female voters. In his 2000 book, The America We Deserve, Trump wrote, “I support a woman’s right to choose…but I am uncomfortable with the procedures.” Fifteen years later, at the August 6 debate, Trump admitted that he has “evolved” on the issue, sharing a story about the child of friends who almost was aborted but then grew up to be a “total superstar.” In March, he said women should face punishment for having abortions if the procedure is banned. In addition to his spat with Kelly (they have since made up—officially), Trump has insulted other women during his campaign. He mocked former rival Carly Fiorina’s appearance and continuously refers to Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas,” a jab at her claim to have Native American ancestry. In a scathing New York Times report, dozens of women who had worked with or for the billionaire over the past four decades recounted many unwelcome romantic advances and commentary on the female body. Before he was presidential candidate Trump, reality TV star Trump once told a Celebrity Apprentice contestant: “Must be a pretty picture, you dropping to your knees.”

Such talk offends some women but not all. Social critic Camille Paglia has cited Trump’s “fearless candor and brash energy” as a “great gust of fresh air.” Maloney says she feels there is a double standard with regard to Trump, and that he fires back at both men and women. “A lot of people have insulted him and called him a clown, a carnival huckster and a sideshow,” she says. “He has been hit on all sides, but people tend to focus on, ‘Oh, he said this one thing, one time, that one day.’”

Maloney says she was in awe while watching Trump announce his presidential bid on TV in June last year. “Though he may not have worded things like a typical politician, I felt an authenticity with the way he spoke. I just thought, This man is different, and this man stands out to me,” says Maloney, a self-described conservative. “I remember laughing because he was so blunt, and I remember thinking, We don’t hear that on TV.”

By December, Maloney was chairwoman of the Georgia Women for Trump Coalition. She and nearly 400 other women hosted events and worked the phones ahead of the state’s March 1 primary. A large part of her volunteer role, she says, was dealing with daily battles against what she calls the media’s spread of disinformation and political propaganda against Trump. “To me, it’s showing strength and courage to say what you believe, regardless of what people think.”

Trump insists that Americans understand he will take care of women “far better” than Clinton. Kathleen Moran, a self-employed real estate broker in Quincy, Massachusetts, says she can’t support Clinton in part because she promises to embrace, even enhance, President Barack Obama’s policies. And Hillstrom says she’s disappointed in Clinton, who she thinks should be in jail because of “bad baggage…. Just because you’re a woman doesn’t mean you deserve to be a president. Your qualifications are zero. She has done nothing for women’s rights.”

To some, Trump appears as a family-oriented, strong, brave and intelligent choice. That is what Hillstrom is looking for in a president. “I want a real man. I want someone who has dropped the political correctness aside, and we get right to the point and tell it like it is.”