MEDIA MEME: In the first Republican debate, Megyn Kelly gave examples of Trump insulting women. After the debate, Trump said Kelly was on her period: “she had blood coming out of her, wherever.”
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED:
Kelly gave examples of Trump insulting women. Trump later said that Kelly was so angry at him that “there was blood coming out of her eyes.” He then said it about a male news anchor too. Trump also said “out of her, wherever” and the media interpreted that as if he meant “having her period.” Trump denied it, saying he meant out of her nose or ears. He said it was a common statement. News pundits did not check whether that was true. But it is. I argue that Trump mixed a common phrase about being injured, with a common expression about being angry.
WARNING: This article discusses people’s use of insulting words.
August 6, 2015. One day after the first Republican presidential debate, Donald Trump gave an interview to Don Lemon of CNN. Trump complained about the “vicious,” “really nasty” and “very unfair” questions from the debate moderators. About Megyn Kelly, Trump said:
“so I have, uh, you know, she, she, gets out, and she starts asking me all sorts of ridiculous questions, and, you know, you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, uh, blood coming out of her, wherever, but uh, she was, uh, in my opinion, she was, uh, off-base…”
Don Lemon did not react at all to this statement. He just continued conversing with Trump. In no way did Lemon show that Trump had just said anything objectionable. Less than two minutes later, Trump griped about another debate moderator too:
“Chris Wallace, cuz I watched him last night, you know, blood pouring out of his eyes too…”
However, reporters soon excerpted and magnified just six words: “blood coming out of her, wherever.”
They said that Trump attacked Megyn Kelly by saying that she was on her period. He immediately denied it, saying that he just meant “her nose.” He posted a Tweet about it:
Re Megyn Kelly quote: "you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever" (NOSE). Just got on w/thought
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 8, 2015
And soon he explained it to Chuck Todd, on NBC’s Meet the Press:
“she was very angry. And all I said is, ‘There was blood—’ essentially, ‘there was blood pouring out of her eyes and there was blood—’ and then I said, you know what, I want to get on to the next sentence, because frankly I don’t have to talk about the blood coming out of her ears and her nose. Which is a very common statement. So I said, ‘Alright, wherever, let’s go.’ And I got on to the next statement. Then all of a sudden, the next day, I wake up and I hear that, you know, somebody took it as something else. Only a deviant would think that, Chuck. I didn’t even think that. Who would think it? Hey, I went to the Wharton School of Finance, the toughest place to get into. I was a great student. I don’t talk that way.”
Regarding the word “wherever,” as a way to move on, we may note that in many interviews, Trump sometimes does often begin sentences that he does not complete.
Trump refused to apologize, saying that he had done nothing wrong. He insisted “it’s a very common statement,” and he added: “I said it about Chris Wallace” too.
Trump also defended himself on ABC. He said:
“I was referring to nose, ears. They’re very common statements. And only a deviant would think of what people said.”
When I heard about this, I wondered: is it true that it’s a common statement?
News commentators and countless articles online did not discuss whether this was true.
Did anyone else use those words?
So I Googled: “blood coming out of his eyes, nose and ears,” as well as “blood coming out of his eyes, ears, and nose,” or “out of his eyes, nose, mouth, and ears.” And yes, I found dozens of examples in webpages and books. Here are some examples:
- F. Pauline, interviewed by Detective S. Guillermo, Hawaii (1991): “She had blood coming out of her eyes, her mouth and her nose.”
- John Sack, Fingerprint: The Autobiography of Us All (2003), p. 178: “blood coming out of their eyes, ears, noses, and mouths…”
- Robert Fournier, The Trials and Triumphs (2009), p. 35: “She had blood coming out of her eyes, nose, mouth and ears.”
- Twin Cities Pioneer Press (2010), “Girl injured on free-fall thrill ride at Wisconsin Dells amusement park” The article reports: “There was blood coming out of her nose, eyes and mouth…”
- Orson Card, Hidden Empire (2010), p. 21: “blood seeping out of his eyes and then from his ears and nose…”
- Susan Masino, Family Tradition: Three Generations of Hank Williams (2011), p. 14: “with blood coming out of his ears, eyes, nose, and mouth.”
- Anthony Uyl, Of the Dark: Tales of Spiritual Horror (2012), p. 7: “She had blood coming out of her ears, nose, eyes, and mouth.”
- Police Report by Sheriff Ruth Anderson in North Strathclyde at Paisley, Scotland (2012): “she could not wait to see her with blood coming out of her eyes, ears and mouth…”
- Victoria Spry, Tortured: Abused and Neglected by Britain’s Most Sadistic Mum (2015): chap. 18: “she had blood coming out of her ears and her nose. And her eyes.”
- Hunter Karr, Evil by Nature (2015): “there was blood coming out of his nose, eyes and ears.”
- R. H. Lightbound, Too Many Wishes (2015), chap. 7: “blood coming out of his nose, eyes, ears and mouth.”
Such examples, and more, convinced me that indeed it’s a common phrase. I had imagined that maybe it referred to someone being so angry that “he’s got blood coming out of his eyes,” etc. However, the examples above refer to someone being so injured, physically, that blood comes out of their eyes, etc.
Still, I did also find examples of the expression being used to denote anger. For example, in 2012, a cook wrote:
“So there are the curds. So fluffy! I wanted to wiggle my fingers in them like Amélie but Carolyn looked at me with blood coming out of her eyes so I refrained.”
Next, I found out that there’s another expression that refers to anger: “I had blood in my eyes,” or “she had blood in her eyes,” etc. Consider these examples:
- Giovanni Verga, Mastro-don Gesualdo: A Novel (1979), p. 196: “You could tell from how she looked at his hands, with blood in her eyes, each time he came to get the keys…”
- Lauren Stone, 303 Paradise Lane (2000), p. 69: “Gerri’s pretty features became slightly contorted in her anger. She glared across the desk with blood in her eyes.”
- Therone Shellman, Love Don’t Live Here (2006), p. 188: “…her child that had caused her to be angry. … Michelle watched him with blood in her eyes, as the rage within her seemed to be growing by the second.”
- Anatoly Efros, The Joy of Rehearsal (2006), p. 149: “does not even say it, but with blood in her eyes, she angrily screams it in Juliet’s face.”
- Earnest Sims, Once Upon a Time in the Past (2010), p. 24: “Rudy only kept staring at him with blood in his eyes.”
- Ryan Bunda, In Too Deep (2011), p. 5: “Charlotte Bliss was beginning to grow very angry. … Charlotte shifted out of her swivel chair and posed in a jujitsu stance with blood in her eyes.”
- Kendall Uyeji, 21 Killers (2013), p. 91: “Main looked at him with blood in his eyes…”
Still, I needed to see if it was true that at some moment Megyn Kelly’s eyes seemed to be looking at Trump with anger. So I played the video of her question and paused it a few times. This is what she looked like at the start:
But then here are some images in which she does seem to me like she’s seriously annoyed at Trump, right as the crowd was laughing:
It all convinced me: Trump thought that Kelly was staring at him in an angry way, as if he had verbally beaten her.
But bear in mind that my opinion is irrelevant. I’m not trying to convince you of what Trump meant. The fact is that he just said “wherever.” My main point is that instead of recognizing that “wherever” could well mean what Trump said he meant, news commentators decided that it must have meant the worst possible interpretation.
Did Trump say it about anyone else?
Again, it’s important to note that in the same interview with Don Lemon, Trump said a similar complaint about Chris Wallace, a man. He said: “you know, blood pouring out of his eyes too…”
Wallace later complained: “for about a week, you go after me. You say blood’s pouring out of my eyes…” Wallace added: “I don’t even know what blood coming out of my eyes is!”
This confirms that some people were unaware that indeed there does exist a common expression about bloody anger in someone’s eyes.
Still, since Trump made the comment about Chris Wallace just soon after saying it about Megyn Kelly, someone might speculate that Trump realized he had said an offensive thing about Kelly and decided to try to cover his tracks by saying something similar about Chris Wallace. One would also have to assume that Trump didn’t really know that phrases such as “blood coming out of her eyes, ears, and nose” are indeed common.
In short, to even consider that Trump did not mean to insult Kelly, we would need to find an earlier instance in which he used the expression to criticize someone else precisely for being angry. Neither pundits nor reporters bothered to search for such evidence.
But it does exist.
In early 2010, golfer Tiger Woods confessed that he had cheated on his wife. He admitted to having affairs. Promptly, The Telegraph newspaper interviewed Donald Trump, who said that Woods was his friend. Trump argued that the five-year marriage between Woods and Elin Nordegren was so damaged that it should end. Trump then said:
“It’s so badly damaged that every time they have a little argument she’s going to look at him with blood pouring out of her eyes.”
That was in February 2010. Nobody quoted it in 2015 when Trump said and explained similar words about Megyn Kelly.
Many pundits and reporters did not believe Trump’s explanation. Instead they insisted that he must have meant that Kelly was suffering of hormones, PMS, menstruation, irrationality. They insisted that when Trump said “wherever,” he must have meant her period. That was the story.
Many readers agreed with the reporters’ horror stories. Other candidates criticized Trump too. But interestingly, many other people did not. They said that the media distorted what Trump had said. And surprisingly, Trump’s poll numbers went up.
Most media outlets spent no room on any of the explanatory points specified above. Instead, the story became a powerful meme about crude sexism. For example, Vanity Fair wrote: “The following night, he suggested to Fox News’s rival network CNN that the reason she was so hostile was that she was probably menstruating: ‘You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.'”
As usual, ordinary people, pundits, and writers give themselves a license to use insults and filthy language; for example, the writer in Vanity Fair, Evgenia Peretz, wrote that Megyn Kelly “enjoys taking the piss out of herself for a laugh.” That’s Vanity Fair. Imagine if Trump had said that.
Trump’s careless use of the word “wherever,” led many people to defend Megyn Kelly. One of the strongest, but most unusual replies came from Trump’s nemesis: Rosie O’Donnell.
In 2015, the musician and feminist Kiran Gandhi ran the London Marathon to raise money for Breast Cancer Care. She had trained for a year. But she started having her period the night before the marathon. So, she bravely decided to run the entire marathon while menstruating, without wearing a tampon because it would be very uncomfortable. She decided to run against the stigma of embarrassment and against sexism.
Kiran Gandhi frankly explained: “I ran with blood dripping down my legs for sisters who don’t have access to tampons and sisters who, despite cramping and pain, hide it away and pretend like it doesn’t exist. I ran to say, it does exist, and we overcome it every day.” Newspapers online discussed the incident, including photographs.
Not all women admired what Kiran Gandhi did. In particular, on the radio show “Just Jenny,” on SiriusXM on August 13, 2015, the two hosts, Jenny Hutt and Jenny Johnson criticized Kiran Gandhi’s decision. They said that it was “disgusting,” “gross!” and “unhygienic.”
Then suddenly Rosie O’Donnell called into the radio show. Rosie complained that two feminist women should not criticize Kiran Gandhi. Rosie countered: “Why do you think she did that??” Mentioning the “platforms of the Republican Party,” Rosie O’Donnell said:
“When Fox anchors [Megyn Kelly] are being accused [by Trump] of being hormonally— and, and shamed because they have their period? Then that woman does that. Why do you think she does that, guys? Don’t you think she did that to say ‘Fuck You, ASSHOLE!’?”
Now that’s a strong insult. But it wasn’t true. Kiran Gandhi ran the London Marathon on April 26, 2015. But Trump and Kelly’s exchange happened months later, in August. Kiran Gandhi wasn’t sending a personal message to Mr. Trump.
Still, Jenny and Jenny agreed that Trump is “an asshole,” and that the “Fuck You, ASSHOLE! is very à propos for what Trump did regarding Megyn Kelly.” They also said “he’s disgusting.”
The conversation moved along, and later Rosie O’Donnell said:
“I’d like to take my period blood, that I no longer have, and write, you know: YOU’RE ALL ASSHOLES! I’d like to smear it all over some people’s faces.”
As usual, few news sources complained about what Rosie had said. After all, she wasn’t running for President.
Alberto A. Martinez is a professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin.
Next, Chapter 10: Who would vote for that face?