Disclaimer: the opinions in this article express that of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs of Her Campus as a whole.
A 2005 interview with presidential candidate Donald Trump conducted by Billy Bush, then of “Access Hollywood,” was recently released, prompting immediate public backlash, and the emergence of multiple reports of Trump’s inappropriate sexual behavior, including sexual assault.
The most startling, and revealing, portion of the interview has been included below, but I encourage everyone to watch it in its entirety.
“I moved on her like a b*tch. But I couldn’t get there, and she was married…I better 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. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything. Whatever you want. Grab them by the p*ssy. You can do anything.”
Trump blatantly states that his stardom allows him to “do anything” to women, including disregarding consent. He broadcasts his overwhelming sense of entitlement as a complement to his wealth and celebrity influence. He credits attraction as his only reasoning for forcibly kissing women, honestly such a ridiculous justification for his clearly sexually inappropriate actions and commentary. The now infamous phrase, “grab them by the p*ssy,” not only includes derogatory language toward women, but insinuates Trump’s advocacy of engaging in sexual acts without permission, i.e. sexual assault.
After the video of the interview was released, Trump issued a response video, transcribed below:
“I’ve never said I’m a perfect person, nor pretended to be someone that I’m not. I’ve said and done things I regret, and the words released today, on more than a decade old video, are one of them. Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am. I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize. I’ve travelled the country, talking about change for America, but my travels have also changed me. I’ve spent time with grieving mothers who’ve lost their children, laid off workers whose jobs have gone to other countries, and people from all walks of life who just want a better future. I have gotten to know the great people of our country, and I’ve been humbled by the faith they’ve placed in me. I pledge to be a better man tomorrow, and will never, ever let you down. 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. We’re losing our jobs, we’re less safe than we were eight years ago, and Washington is totally broke. Hillary Clinton and her kind have run our country into the ground. I’ve said some foolish things, but there’s a big difference between the words and actions of other people. Bill Clinton has actually abused women, and Hillary has bullied, attacked, shamed, and intimidated his victims. We will discuss this more in the coming days, see you at the debate on Sunday.”
Additionally, Trump stated: “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.”
Trump explicitly reminds us that this video is not something he recently said, yet does that matter when he still speaks this way? The use of “if” in the sentence “I apologize if anyone was offended,” is in itself extremely offensive. It shows he does not understand the severity of his words, and perhaps even why anyone would react negatively. He apologizes, yet turns the conversation to other topics. Of course the people whom he references and their struggles are important and must be addressed, but that wasn’t what this particular apology needed to attend to. Instead, Trump attempts to focus on the “real world.”
Aren’t your words part of the real world, Donald? Concentrating on issues regarding sexual assault and our current rape culture are not a “distraction,” as Trump so insensitively references. These are important conversations that many of the voters want and need to have. Trump refers to the video as a “private conversation,” yet what happens in your private life is a reflection of your public life, and doesn’t excuse the words being said. Is an apology actually enough, especially when it lacks sincerity?
In response to the emergence of this video, prominent members of the Republican Party have condemned Trump, with support for him to drop out of the race, many advocating for vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence to take over the presidential campaign. Others simply withdrew support, or offered criticism to his statements.
Furthermore, Trump insinuates that the then-upcoming presidential debate would allow for a greater discussion regarding the interview and its promotion of sexual assault, but this did not occur. At the debate following Trump’s response to the video leak, he completely ignored the questions regarding his sexual assault history and lewd comments. Trump insisted the sexual assault claims against him were debunked, yet no evidence has been provided of such. He simply skirted around the claims, without actually addressing any of the accusations, which he indicated that he would do in his apology.
Trump remarks on Bill Clinton and his past relationships with women. Ambiguities surrounding Bill Clinton’s sexual history and misconduct do exist, and what we know for certain is that during his time as President, he had a consensual extramarital affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Other accusations have been made, but none corroborated or confirmed.
Unfortunately, we are faced with two candidates surrounded by allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior. But, we need to focus on who is actually running for President, and who we want to represent our society. Comparisons have been made between Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, yet one society displaced from presidential power, and one society is attempting to promote to presidential power. We must remember that Hillary Clinton advocates for women’s rights and reproductive health, for example through her support of Planned Parenthood. In comparison, Donald Trump advocates overturning Roe v. Wade, which would be a massive regression for reproductive rights in the United States.
Many of the women who have accused Trump of sexual assault asserted he kissed them without permission, a clear reiteration of his “private” conversation with Billy Bush. Trump completely dismisses these accusations, yet they corroborate his words—words he didn’t expect to be broadcasted publicly. Additionally, Trump’s wealth and assets have been claimed as coersion attempts for women to comply with his advances. The use of a private jet in exchange for sex? Not someone I want to see in the oval office.
Furthermore, Trump’s history as previous owner of the Miss Universe Organization allowed for his interaction with beauty contestants for years, many who have asserted he was sexually inappropriate and treated them poorly. Trump’s business and personal past allowed him to judge women based on looks, since he had the power, wealth and status to do so. Why would we expect him to stop now? One accuser said: “I was so upset that he thought I was so insignificant that he could do that,” truly demonstrating Trump’s superiority and self-entitlement.
Trump continuously blames the Clinton campaign when accused of sexual assault or harassment, yet do we really believe that all these women are simply working with Clinton to get back at Trump? Yes, many of Trump’s accusers support Clinton’s presidential campaign, but isn’t it to be expected that they would not support a candidate who previously assaulted them?
Often people point out celebrities such as Miley Cyrus for her somewhat provocative performances, or Beyonce (whom the Obamas credit as a role model for young women like their daughters) and her stage outfits, as representations of Donald Trump’s comments. However, there is an extremely large difference between a woman (or person in general) expressing her sexuality and touching her own body, and a man (or anyone) forcibly grabbing a woman’s body without permission. Grabbing your own body is your right, but another person forcibly grabbing your body, especially sexually, is assault. There is no other way to interpret these actions, as Trump supporters have attempted to do by placing the blame on other aspects of culture.
What’s even more disheartening is the fact that Trump still holds support and respect from many across the nation, including women. Trump would not have been able to reach this level of political power without corroboration from the American people. Trump encompasses the feelings and opinions of many people across the nation, reflecting a lack of unity and understanding. America may be flawed, but I don’t believe the way to “make it great again” would be to place a person in executive power who brags about his forced sexual conquests, and advocates relationships lacking consent.
At the third presidential debate, Trump claimed, “No one has more respect for women than I do.” But sir, I think I could name quite a few people that I believe respect women at a much greater level than you do. Your comments reflect a normalization of rape culture in society, punctuated by people of power—people who use status and wealth to erase the severity of their actions. We cannot continue to allow the prevalence of sexual assault and harassment. Narratives of celebrities such as Lady Gaga (her song, “Til It Happens To You”) and Amber Tamblyn (social media response following Trump’s leaked remarks) indicate the shame and confusion of sexual assault that survivors endure, proving why sexual assault victims often do not share their stories until much later, or even never at all.
Trump’s accusers have been criticized for emerging after the publication of this video, yet wouldn’t you be scared to place yourself in such a vulnerable, public position? Musical artist Kesha sued her producer Dr. Luke after he assaulted her. She was contractually bound to remain under his production company, and her lawsuit was frozen against Dr. Luke. Examples of terrible sexual assault and harassment exist in so many facets of our current society, it is unfathomable that we may promote and reward such behavior with executive authority. How can we condone allowing money and power to alleviate ethics and responsibility?
Donald, you have let me down. You’ve let down so many within this country, especially women. We don’t need perfect political leaders. But we do need individuals who will be held accountable for their actions, and who do not sexually harass or assault others. You do not deserve to hold the highest political honor of our country. You do not deserve to be president.