May 13 2021
1:24 AM
banner-icon1 banner-icon2 banner-icon3


Prev story

Donald J Trump charged with sexually assaulting women: revisited

Published on October 29, 2020 11:27 AM
Next story

Story Source

World Stories Search World World Index

Four years ago this week, news broke that the Republican nominee for president, Donald J. Trump, had been caught on tape talking with Access Hollywood host Billy Bush about his habit of sexually assaulting women. In that 2005 conversation, the then-Apprentice star bragged about grabbing women ?by the pussy,? kissing women before they can stop him, and ?moving on? a married woman ?like a bitch.? Trump already had image problems that didn?t square with either party?s idea of presidential behavior, but the tape offered testimony (from the offender?s own mouth) that he was more than just a boor: He was a predator, and he?d been caught confessing. The case against him seemed complete. The ?businessman? whose casinos declared bankruptcy and whose ?university? was beset with fraud allegations had established his Republican bona fides on birtherism and campaigned on building a wall and imprisoning his opponent. Now it turned out he was proud of assaulting women.

Everyone could hear the truth for themselves. And nearly everyone with a platform who did?it can be hard to remember that this was true?thought this would be the ignominious end of an ugly reality TV candidacy. It seemed like the defining, karma-laden October surprise of the election. Misogyny isn?t rare?Hillary Clinton?s campaign made that crystal clear?but no one really thought a broad swath of the American public would find sexual assault not just electable but charming. That moment was not so different from the peculiar and pivotal moment we?re living through in October of 2020, with the president infected with a deadly virus whose seriousness he has downplayed for months. Only in 2016, the certainty that it was over for Trump when the Access Hollywood tape dropped was even more universal. The day after the tape was released, Mike Pence condemned what he had heard. Trump even gave something that passed for an apology. It would be the final concession he would make on the record to societal expectations of good behavior.

Then the spin began: We heard the ?locker-room talk? defense?which effectively turned the world into a metaphorical ?locker room? where men could be indulgently absolved of anything misogynistic they said, provided they weren?t addressing women. It was an ugly exercise in special pleading, but Fox News beat the drum and we know how it ended: An event that everyone at the time saw as manifestly disqualifying got repackaged as no big deal, and also somehow ?fake news.? It even produced a handy shorthand about how Trump is a victim persecuted or held to impossible standards. We now know what that ?victim? of the terrible media was up to: Trump spent those weeks in October trying to keep Stormy Daniels quiet about the affair they?d had while Melania was home with their newborn son, Barron.

In other words, it was an inflection point that didn?t come to pass, a moment when everything should have changed and didn?t. The Access Hollywood tape proved that either Republicans no longer reacted to scandal, one of their biggest political tools, or they had never been serious about the ?family values? version of decency they?d spent decades professing?and saw a woman?s right to not be sexually assaulted as negotiable. (A year later, Steve Bannon would describe the moment as a ?litmus test? for who Trump?s true supporters were.) Just a few days after the tape broke, and after Trump denied the veracity of its contents at a presidential debate, several women came forward to describe Trump doing variations of what Trump said he?d done to them?confirming that this wasn?t idle ?locker talk? but an accurate description of his conduct. The Trump campaign called them opportunists and liars, and many Republicans followed suit. For all that the GOP claims to admire Melania Trump, by the time news broke in January 2018 that Trump had cheated on her with Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, Republicans were committed to a moral program that implicitly condoned the president groping women, sexually assaulting them, cheating on his wife, and paying hush money to cover it up. They?d already ignored more than a dozen specific allegations of sexual assault; by continuing to support Trump, the Republican position became not just politically expedient?it became the party platform. Anything Trump had done to women would not be enough for them to abandon him.