The Donald Trump campaign has not had a good few weeks. Following his abysmal performance in the Presidential debates, he hasn't exactly done a great job of damage control. Instead, he tried to start a Twitter war with the media and a former Miss Universe in the early hours of the morning, was unable to make it through nine sentences of text in less than twenty minutes, asked the terminally ill to live just long enough to vote, and gave a speech at a rally that many describe as "manic". This latest bit of Trump news, however, seems to have many in the Republican camp saying that his antics have gone too far.
Earlier this week, The Washington Post obtained a previously unreleased video from 2005 featuring the Republican nominee for President speaking with Access Hollywood's Billy Bush. The two were filming a segment for the show that was to be filmed at the same time as Trump was shooting a cameo for Days Of Our Lives.
In the video, edited down to three minutes by Post staff, Trump speaks about trying to "move" on a woman and "failing". Apparently, Trump used "furniture shopping" as a way of courting this particular woman, who happened to be married at the time. At one point, he told Bush that:
"I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn't get there. And she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she's now got the big phony tits and everything. She's totally changed her look."
At another point in the video, Trump noticed Arianne Zucker, an actress who was going to escort them on set for the Days Of Our Lives segment. After spotting her, Trump tells Bush that he's "got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her". He, then, proceeds to tell Bush how he is often simply compelled to sexually assault women he finds attractive, saying "I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything ... grab them by the pussy."
What Trump is describing here is a pretty clear cut example of sexual assault. Being concerned about his breath doesn't make the fact that he doesn't seem to care at all about consent any better. To be clear, to "grab" someone by her "pussy" without waiting, to "just start kissing" someone without any indication of consent -- these things describe sexual assault, and to casually dismiss them is to endorse rape culture. Sexual assault isn't a joke, it isn't something that exists solely to motivate a character, to fuel your jokes, or something to be proud of doing; it's a serious thing that has serious consequences, (always) for the victim and (sometimes) for the perpetrator.
Sure, lots of people participate in rape culture by making jokes and comments like these, but most of those people aren't also trying to convince Americans (and the rest of the world) that they are the most qualified to lead. Another common argument in support of horrible jokes like these is often that the person making them would never actually do those things in reality -- but, in Trump's case, he has.
Even setting aside the plethora of horrible things Trump has said about women, he has, himself, been accused, several times, of sexually aggressive behaviour. Let us remind you of Temple Taggart, former Miss Utah, who told The New York Times that twice Trump kissed her on the lips without her consent. He's also been accused of creating a "hostile work environment" through objectifying his employees and repeated incidents of sexual harassment.
Trump has also been publicly accused of sexual assault three times. The first was by his ex-wife Ivana during a disposition given in their divorce case. As it was described to reporter Harry Hurt III, Trump was angry about the work done on his scalp by a surgeon recommended by Ivana. A "violent assault" ensued, where Trump tore out Ivana's hair, raped her, and then mocked her the next day. The divorce case was settled by way of mutual agreement, and Ivana later retracted her statements. It's important to note that, in many divorce cases, spouses will agree to not say anything disparaging about the other in exchange for some sort of financial settlement, such as the payment of spousal support or the division of property. In Ivana's case, a gag order was included as part of the divorce judgement in 1991. She cannot say anything about her relationship with Trump without his prior consent.
The second time Trump was accused of sexual assault, it was by the romantic partner of one of his business associates, Jill Harth. She claimed that he subjected her to a number of unwanted sexual advances, including him groping her under the table while out to dinner and culminating in him pulling her into one of his children's bedrooms. Harth told The Guardian that "he pushed [her] up agains the wall, and had his hands all over [her]". While Harth did drop her suit against Trump, she stands by her claims that he did, repeatedly, sexually assault her.
The third incident is perhaps the least reported but the most appalling. A woman, identified only as Jane Doe, has alleged that, when she was 13, Trump raped her. The incident has a witness and happened during the same time period Trump was frequently spotted with noted sex offender Jeffery Epstein. While the case was initially thrown out, it wasn't for lack of merit. The plaintiff, Doe, had filed it without the assistance of a lawyer and, as a result, misunderstood some complex legal requirements. She now has the assistance of a lawyer, and the trial has been fast-tracked to be heard in December.
Doe claims that, as a 13 year old girl, she would attend parties thrown by Epstein, hoping to become a model or actress. It was at these parties that she was the victim of a "savage sexual attack" by Trump, who tied her up, raped her, and threatened her friends and family if she ever told anyone the truth. While New York City has a statute of limitations on claims such as these, there is a provision by which they can be waived -- if the victim was indeed in fear of her own personal safety, they can waive the five year limitation and hear older cases.
When Trump was first confronted with the content of these tapes, he responded by claiming that it was nothing more than "locker room banter" and saying that "Bill Clinton has said far worse ... on the golf course. I apologize if anyone was offended".
Of course we all know that "I'm sorry you were offended" doesn't mean the same thing as "I'm sorry I did something offensive". The fallout was immediate, with many Republicans, including Paul Ryan, condemning Trump's comments. Even his own running mate, Mike Pence, spoke out against his comments, releasing a statement that he was "offended by the words and actions described by Donald Trump". He continued, saying that he does not "condone his remarks and cannot defend them". Pence closed by offering his prayers for Trump's family and offering Trump somewhat of a passive aggressive ultimatum, with Pence telling the media that he looks forward "to the opportunity [Trump] has to show what is in his heart when he goes before the nation tomorrow night".
Trump, later, released a 90 second videotaped apology, in which he said that "anyone who knows me knows those words don't reflect who I am". The problem is: anyone who is familiar with Trump at all knows that those words reflect exactly who he is.
Setting aside the fact that they supported Trump throughout the rest of his racist, xenophobic, and misogynist campaign, it is noteworthy that so many lined up to make their condemnation noted. Trump has run a campaign based off of hatred, but it seems that his comments are catching up to him.
As Pence hinted, Trump's performance at tomorrow night's debates could be indicative of the direction his party takes come November. Another poor, rambling performance by Trump could drive even more Republicans to the Clinton campaign. Quite frankly, he can't risk another misstep. At the same time, Trump seems to lack the self-awareness needed to prevent even more damaging comments from being said. In fact, he still insists that he will be successful come November, telling the New York Times that "we will win". Take a good hard look at the comments he made, and ask yourself if this is someone you want leading your country. While there may be legitimate complaints about the alternate candidate, you can't deny that, at this point, it's become obvious that Trump will be a bad choice for America.