The Women’s March is rapidly becoming better known for its embrace of fringe issues and radical figures like Louis Farrkahan than its political rallies, which is creating headaches on the campaign trail for Democrats like Sen. Claire McCaskill.
After the Women’s March stunned even liberal feminists last week by rushing to the defense of Backpage.com, which has pleaded guilty in Texas to human trafficking, Ms. McCaskill found herself under fire for her enthusiastic involvement in the January 2017 march.
Missouri state Rep. Jean Evans, a Republican, tweeted that she was waiting for Ms. McCaskill “to distance herself from this pro-human trafficking organization,” while Catholic Association senior fellow Ashley McGuire called on politicians to “answer” for their support for the Women’s March.
“I think it’s perfectly legitimate to ask someone like Claire McCaskill — who participated in the Women’s March and called the movement ‘inspiring’ — what do you think now?” Ms. McGuire said. “Do you support legalizing prostitution? Is legalizing prostitution an effective way to deal with human trafficking?”
Clearly Ms. McCaskill isn’t a fan of sex trafficking — she worked to pass the online trafficking bill signed last week by President Trump — but her silence to date comes as testament to the clout wielded by the Women’s March despite the growing scrutiny.
Ms. McCaskill is hardly alone among Democrats. In fact, she isn’t even the most stalwart supporter of the Women’s March among the relatively small cohort of Senate Democrats seeking reelection in 2018, none of whom have condemned the group’s extremism.
That includes Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who spoke at the 2017 march in Boston and served as the honorary co-chair of the one-year anniversary march in January.
In October, Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Amy Klobuchar of *Minnesota, and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan delivered rousing keynote speeches at the Women’s March conference in Detroit.
“The Women’s March has shown it’s run by extremists, and the senators and politicians who associated themselves with an organization that’s run by extremists need to be asked hard questions about that affiliation,” Ms. McGuire said.
She and other foes of human trafficking were shocked when the Women’s March, which backs “sex workers’ rights” in its manifesto, decried the federal and state raid on Backpage.com, calling it “an absolute crisis for sex workers who rely on the site to safely get in touch with clients.”
“Sex workers rights are women’s rights,” declared the Women’s March in an April 7 tweet.
The ensuing flap came with leaders of the left-wing resistance group already losing support over their support for Mr. Farrakhan, known for his anti-Semitic rhetoric, as well as convicted cop-killer Assata Shakur and recently deported Palestinian terrorist Rasmea Odeh.
After the April 2 death of Winnie Mandela, the Women’s March praised the South African anti-apartheid activist for her “leadership,” despite her 2003 conviction for fraud and theft, her endorsement of torturing people to death by “necklacing,” and her alleged involvement in at least 15 deaths.
Critics on the right have long denounced Women’s March co-leader Linda Sarsour’s anti-Israel jabs, support for Sharia Law, and her 2011 tweet saying that Muslim critic Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a victim of genital mutilation, should have her vagina “taken away.”
Women’s March co-president Tamika D. Mallory’s history of praising Mr. Farrakhan, including her appearance at his February speech, prompted Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii last month to cut ties, saying that, “We at Planned Parenthood reject and condemn bigotry of all kinds.”
Cornell Law School professor William A. Jacobson, who has chronicled the Women’s March on his Legal Insurrection blog, accused Senate Democrats of providing tacit support with their silence.
“Several of the key leaders of the Women’s March have long-standing relationships with anti-Semitic, racist, and sexist firebrand Louis Farrakhan,” Mr. Jacobson said. “Democratic Senators who embrace the Women’s March without demanding a change in the leadership to remove Farrakhan supporters are ratifying the embrace of Farrakhan, whether they intend to do so or not.”
None of this has dissuaded so far Senate Democrats facing reelection in November who may have decided that the benefits of being associated with the Women’s March, which has launched a national Power to the Polls tour to juice voter turnout, outweigh the drawbacks.
Ms. Stabenow marched with the group in January 2017 and emphasized her close relationship with the group in her October speech at the Women’s March conference.
“We’re in a fight for the heart and soul of America,” Ms. Stabenow told the audience. “We’re in a fight for who we are. They do not represent who we are. That is not America. That hate and racism, that is not America. That is not us.”
Ms. Gillibrand was joined by Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia at the one-year anniversary rally in Washington, D.C., where she recalled the first Women’s March fondly.
“It was one of the most inspiring moments of my entire political career,” Ms. Gillibrand said. “It was so powerful because it was both intersectional and intergenerational.”
Ms. McGuire predicted that the Democrats will ultimately pay a political price for looking the other way.
“I suspect that people like Claire McCaskill hope that this will go away, that spotlights are not shown on their associations, but I think the opposite is going to happen,” said Ms. McGuire, who penned a Friday op-ed on RealClearPolitics titled, “The Women’s March and Backpage.com: A Sordid Story.”
“Already I’ve seen people posting pictures of her at the St. Louis Women’s March,” she said. “You can’t hide from this.”
* (Correction: Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s state was corrected in the latest update.)