You can say this at least about Donald Trump: He sure knows how to pick ‘em. Republican Sean Parnell is the Trump-backed candidate for the 2022 U.S. Senate race in Pennsylvania. Parnell, already dogged by accusations that he allegedly attempted to strangle his former wife, seemed like a fitting endorsement from Trump, no stranger to assault claims himself, even (allegedly) dabbling in rape as well.
While Republican voters were willing to overlook Trump’s blatant misogyny, Parnell has neither the name recognition nor the media-spun notoriety of Trump. More significantly, from a practical standpoint, Parnell’s potential future as a U.S. senator would largely be decided by the prevailing sentiment of those suburban counties surrounding Philadelphia, an increasingly liberal bellwether for any Pennsylvania candidate aspiring to statewide office. In particular, the women’s vote in those counties now tends to have an outsized impact on any statewide election.
Parnell would face a Republican primary in May of next year. However, it now appears that he may not make it that far, Trump’s wholehearted endorsement notwithstanding. As reported by Nick Kepler and Michael Scherer, writing for the Washington Post, Parnell gave an interview to Fox Nation in 2019, providing some startling misogynist viewpoints, the contents of which are now receiving closer attention.
His comments came up in a discussion about a study that attributed low marriage rates in the U.S. to the lack of “economically attractive men.” Parnell gave what he now describes as a “tongue-in-cheek” response to the interviewer:
“I am going to say something very, very un-PC. I reject this study wholesale,” Parnell said. “I feel like the whole happy wife, happy life nonsense has done nothing but raise one generation of women tyrants after the next.”
“The idea that a woman doesn’t need a man to be successful, the idea that a woman doesn’t need a man to have a baby, the idea that a woman can live a happy and fulfilling life without a man, I think it’s all nonsense,” he said.
Blaming “high maintenance, narcissistic women” for their inability to find suitable mates, Parnell also pined for an earlier time: “It used to be, you know, women were attracted to your strength because you could defend them from dinosaurs.” He also claimed to have been repulsed by the “duck-billed selfies” taken by women and posted on Instagram.
It’s certainly possible that Parnell thought he was being funny, although he does not appear to be laughing in these clips:
The entire Fox Nation video interview is available here. Parnell is currently locked in a bitter divorce and custody battle with his former wife, in which his ex has accused him both of physically assaulting her and physically abusing their children.
Parnell’s estranged wife, Laurie Snell, with whom he shares three children, has accused him of multiple forms of abuse, including strangling her and hitting one of their children so hard he left a fingerprint-shaped welt on the child’s back. She said Parnell has called her a “piece of s---” and said he once told her to get an abortion.
Further reporting from CNN suggests that the overall tenor of Parnell’s statements about women on Fox Nation mesh well with someone whom his ex-wife has portrayed as a classic abuser:
He would hold me down -- he would barricade himself in front of our door so I couldn't leave the house. He would take my keys and my phone so I couldn't leave," Snell said in 2018. "These were, you know, pretty typical for Sean. This had happened at least a dozen times during our relationship."
According to the CNN report, shortly after Trump endorsed Parnell, Jeff Bartos, another GOP Senate hopeful, published documents on his campaign website indicating that Parnell’s ex-wife had sought and obtained two protection-from-abuse orders against Parnell. Both of those orders were later expunged from the public record.
The divorce and custody case, which has lasted four years, will likely be decided this week. Some of Parnell’s backers contend that if the court decides to award joint custody, Parnell could trumpet that fact in arguing that his candidacy is still viable. As Kepler and Scherer report, others have taken a decidedly dimmer view of his prospects, blaming Trump for not vetting Parnell before he endorsed him.
Several relatively lesser-known PA Republicans have indicated they would join the race if Parnell implodes any further. One of them, a hedge fund operator named David McCormick, recently traveled to Mar-a-Lago for a “private” dinner with Trump. On the Democratic side, the race appears to be crystallizing between current Rep. Conor Lamb, who President Biden has praised, and current Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman.