Trump’s lewd comments and the effect on electability
On Oct. 7, 2016, news broke of a 2005 Access Hollywood video interview capturing Donald Trump and Billy Bush discussing the sexually aggressive ways in which Trump has interacted with women. Trump was making a guest appearance on a soap opera when their discussion turned lewd.
The sexually aggressive comments began when Trump recounted his attempts to seduce Bush’s married co-anchor, Nancy O’Dell. He related his story stating, “I did try and f--- her. She was married.” He later said he could get away with anything due to his celebrity status. “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything,” Trump declares. “Whatever you want,” replies Bush. “Grab them by the p---y,” Trump states. “You can do anything.” When Trump spotted his co-star for the soap opera he remarked: “I’ve got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her. You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.” His statements supported the idea that no consent was given in these interactions, which led many to believe that he has sexually assaulted women in the past.
In the days following the surfacing of the video, eleven women came forward to accuse Trump of alleged assault among other things. The accusations ranged from the early 1980s when Trump allegedly groped a woman on a flight to New York, to 2013 when he allegedly groped a former Miss USA contestant. Many accusations included instances of forced kissing or groping, which is what Trump had discussed in his video interview with Billy Bush. Trump addressed the 1980s alleged assault by stating: "Believe me. She would not be my first choice. That I can tell you.” Trump also commented on a separate allegation from 2005 by Natasha Stoynoff, a People magazine writer covering Trump at the time of the alleged assault, stating, "You take a look. Look at her. Look at her words. You tell me what you think. I don't think so." Trump and his team have denied all other allegations against him.
The video was a topic of discussion at the second presidential debate on October 9, when Anderson Cooper questioned Trump about the recorded conversation. “For the record, are you saying that what you said on the bus 11 years ago, that you did not kiss women without consent or grope women?” Cooper asked. “I have great respect for women,” Trump stated. “Nobody has more respect for women than I do.” “Have you ever done those things?” Cooper repeated. Trump responded, “No I have not.”
Trump did make an official apology video that discussed his comments from the conversation with Bush. He also used the apology video as a platform to tell voters to focus on the more significant issues of the election. “Let's be honest, we're living in the real world. This is nothing more than a distraction from the important issues we're facing today,” Trump said in the video. He made an additional statement stating, “This was locker-room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago. Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course — not even close, I apologize if anyone was offended.”
Donald Trump has previously had a number of lewd discussions on Howard Stern’s radio show. He has talked about his daughter Ivanka Trump with Stern repeatedly discussing her looks and physique. In an interview from 2004, Stern asked if he could say that Ivanka is “a piece of a--.” Trump consents, replying “yeah” to his question. In an interview from 2006, Trump corrected Stern’s comment that Ivanka “looks more voluptuous than ever,” replying, "She's actually always been very voluptuous.” Aside from his own daughter, he has made numerous lewd comments about the age and race of women. Stern, in a 1997 interview, asked Trump if he has ever “had a black woman in bed." Trump replied, "Well, it depends on what your definition of black is." In 2002, Trump called thirty the “perfect age.” When a co-host on Stern’s show replied, “Until she’s thirty-five,” he stated, "What is it at 35? It's called check-out time.” The comments surfacing have all been recorded on Stern’s radio show through the span of seventeen years.
Many Republicans, including some who had previously supported Trump before the video surfaced, took to Twitter to make statements. Former New York Governor George Pataki, as well as former Trump supporter and conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, were a few of many whom called for Trump to withdraw from the race. Others stated that they would be writing in Governor Mike Pence come election time, Trump’s running-mate. Carly Fiorina was one of those calling for the write-in of Governor Pence stating: “Donald Trump does not represent me or my party.” Many more Republicans, including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, criticized Trump’s statements, but did not withdraw their support.
Although many are outraged at the comments, not all Republicans are withdrawing support. Most are calling Trump out, but they are not condemning him. Most GOP voters actually want Republicans in office to support Trump. 74% of Republican voters surveyed stated that they would like the GOP to continue backing Trump, while only 13% stated that the GOP should not support him. During the final presidential debate, Trump was asked about the sexual assault allegations surfacing. He blamed the accusations on Hillary Clinton’s campaign stating: "Those stories have been largely debunked. Those people, I don't know those people. I have a feeling how they came. I believe it was her campaign that did it.” Trump’s comments have set the stage for outrage from many GOP officials and members, but only time will tell if this outrage will impact the polls on election day.