Women's March Defense of Puts Claire McCaskill in Tough Spot

McCaskill has embraced Women's March, which has taken pro-prostitution stance

Claire McCaskill
Claire McCaskill / Getty Images
April 10, 2018

The Women's March decision to defend the website, which was used for child sex trafficking before it was shut down last week, creates a difficult situation for Sen. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.), who participated in the group's initial march and has worked to capitalize on its reach for her reelection effort.

Authorities seized last Friday. Its cofounders now face 93 federal charges related to facilitating prostitution through the website, described by Attorney General Jeff Sessions as "the dominant marketplace for illicit commercial sex" and "a place where sex traffickers frequently advertised children and adults alike."

Both Republicans and Democrats praised the action against the site. McCaskill herself was part of a bipartisan investigation into Backpage and called its seizure "great news."

But her allies over at the Women's March took a different stance—the group called the shutting down of an "absolute crisis," saying "sex workers rights are women's rights."

It pointed to work by Collective Action for Safe Spaces, a pro-prostitution group arguing "sex work is consensual."

"The crackdown on Backpage is not about ending trafficking; it’s motivated by the patriarchal notion that women should not be free to do what we want with our bodies," said the promoted group.

McCaskill has been an ally of the Women's March since it's initial January 21, 2017, march, which she called an "inspiring" reminder of why she fights.

McCaskill gave remarks during the St. Louis march and told MSNBC the following day she would "try very hard to capture this energy and make sure it translates into volunteers and door knocking" for the midterm elections.

She quickly got started on that effort by using the march to both fundraise and build out a political list from attendees.

"Millions of women stood strong today," McCaskill wrote on the afternoon of the march along with a fundraising link and the #Marchers4McCaskill hashtag. "Now it's time to fight. 2018 is soon! Please give $5."

She also asked march participants to email her at "," an email address created by her campaign.

McCaskill did not respond to a request for comment on the Women's March statement on Backpage.

One Missouri Republican, state representative Jean Evans, questioned on Tuesday morning why McCaskill was still allying herself with the Women's March given its stated views on Backpage.

This is not the first time the Women's March has caused problems for its allies due to radical stances.

The group was criticized last summer when it took to Twitter to celebrate the birthday of Assata Shakur, a fugitive cop killer on the FBI's "Most Wanted Terrorists" list.

More recently it drew criticism when a member of its leadership team attended a recent speech by the Nation of Islam's Louis Farrakhan, a notorious anti-Semite who once celebrated Adolf Hitler as a "very great man."

Missouri's Republican attorney general Josh Hawley, who is running for the seat currently held by McCaskill, praised the shutdown of Backpage as "a critical step in our efforts to end human trafficking."

Like McCaskill, Hawley's office had been investigating the role Backpage played in human trafficking since last year. The site filed a lawsuit against Hawley to block his office's probe, but the suit was tossed by a federal judge.

" has been an enabler of human trafficking," Hawley said. "Human trafficking is a scourge on our society. My message to traffickers is: We will find you and we will bring you to justice."

The Women's March also did not respond to a request for comment on McCaskill's views on Backpage.

Published under: Claire McCaskill