Burke first began fighting for human rights as a young teen when she organized around the Central Park jogger case in 1989 — and conversely, against President Donald Trump. Long before his political ambitions, Trump, at the time, called for a return of the death penalty in the state of New York as punishment for the five black and Hispanic teens who were convicted of the crime, but years later turned out to be innocent.
Years later, Burke’s work as an activist has once again indirectly involved Trump, as she says the Me Too movement would not have been possible without Trump taking office.
“I think the Trump presidency is largely why we’re able to have this moment,” Burke told Variety, as part of her Power of Women interview.
Referring to the “Access Hollywood” tapes infamously leaked during the president campaign, in which Trump made lewd comments about women, Burke said, “When Trump got elected after being a self-professed sexual assaulter [and] describing himself and describing the way in which he assaults women so brazenly, I feel like that was a bridge too far for a lot of people, and I also think it made people feel hopeless and helpless in a lot of ways.”
“What the movement does is give people a way forward, it helps people take ownership of their own destiny and say, this presidency and this administration is not going to give us what we need, we are the ones that we’ve been waiting for. We had to stand up and go take it. We have to do it for ourselves,” Burke continued. “So in that way, his presidency has been a catalyst for a lot of what we’ve seen in the last year and a half,” Burke explains. “Whatever it took for people to get shaken out of their complacency or whatever, I’m grateful for it.”
Asked if she has ever been in conversation with the president to discuss the mission of the Me Too movement with the Trump administration, Burke said, “I don’t think it’s a practical use of my time to spend it talking to somebody who has made it very clear that they have no interest in the things that I believe in. They’re not attached to the work that I’m trying to do, and they don’t believe in this vision.
“I want to go talk to people who are leaders on the ground who want to do this work and who are poised and ready and just don’t know how — that’s who I want to talk to,” Burke elaborated. “I want to talk to people who are like-minded or people who are on the fence, and just meet somebody who is looking and just trying to understand where they fit in this. Those are the conversations I want to have. I don’t want to talk to him.”