In his latest Chronicle column under the innocuous headline "Trump could drag the Republican Congress down with him," former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown appears to defend republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump by equivocating on the subject of the candidate's alleged sexual violence toward women. Accusations against Trump came to light after a recording in which Trump can be heard bragging about forcing himself on women was widely circulated and condemned this month.
I have to say, however, that I’ve had several contacts with Trump over the years and never saw evidence of the lewd talk and alleged predatory sexual behavior that have led to his tumble in the polls.
He was more like Bill Clinton. He would lock onto whoever was in front of him with an intensity that made them feel that they were the only person in the room. Often as not, that person also happened to be attractive.
In fact, in one way, Trump wasn’t into touching.
A few years ago, I was at Wolfgang Puck’s celebrity-packed 50th birthday party in Las Vegas. Trump was there too, greeting everyone effusively and generally having a great time. But I did notice something: He almost never shook anyone’s hand.
By suggesting that Trump didn't like to touch people, Brown is (rather feebly) suggesting that Trump wouldn't be interesting in touching (i.e. assaulting) women. By claiming to have never seen Trump's lewd character, not only is Brown being willfully naive, he's asserting that, despite their limited relationship, he knows Trump better than the women who have come forward to accuse him of violence. And finally, Brown's comparison of Donald Trump to Bill Clinton, which Brown couches as a favorable observation about them, can also be read as a veiled attempt to equate the two mens' behavior, a line of argument the Trump campaign has continued to deploy. Of course, Brown has made all these points in such a way as to maintain plausible deniability throughout.
Last May, Brown wrote of Trump in his column that "The real key to Trump’s success is that he is just flat-out exciting, and these days, we as a nation are addicted to excitement." Brown has also made jokes at Trump's expense in the past. He quipped during the unveiling of a Tony Bennett statue this summer that "it better not be Trump," an allusion to a naked orange effigy of the candidate that had recently been placed in the Castro. And, just a bit like Trump, Brown appears to enjoy the beauty pageant biz. Last year, Brown's longtime partner (or, if you ask him "lady friend") Sonya Molodetskaya hosted a Miss Russian SF event.
Brown has also been known to defend men accused of violence against women. He came to the aid of Bill Cosby, a longtime personal friend, by implying (but not saying outright) that Cosby's accusers were lying. In his capacity as a lawyer, last year Brown was hired to assist tech CEO Gurbaksh Chahal, who reportedly offered Brown a $1 million retainer to make charges that he'd assaulted his then-girlfriend "go away." Brown disputes the price and says his assistance was ethical. It also appears to have been, at least temporarily, effective: A video that purportedly showed the assault was deemed inadmissible as evidence, having been illegally obtained.
All this to say: If Willie Brown tries to give you a handshake, you might consider saying you "have a germ thing."