Trump tape sparks controversy and GOP backlash as live mic catches Trump’s lewd conversation.
Donald Trump described in lewd detail his beliefs and actions toward women, in a 2005 video leaked to the Washington Post on Friday. In the video, recorded on a live microphone prior to a taping for Access Hollywood, Trump details an attempted sexual encounter with a married woman in graphic terms. Trump further outlined approaches to use power and influence to commit sexual acts, and appeared to condone sexual assault.
“…when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.” Trump said in the audio recording.
“Whatever you want,” said Billy Bush, an Access Hollywood cohost at the time.
“Grab ‘em by the pussy. You can do anything,” said Trump.
The 2005 video—in which Trump made the lewd comments—appeared to have been forgotten, consigned to the dustbins of daytime television. Several days ago, staff at NBC remembered the Trump appearance on Access Hollywood, and dug through archives to find the tape.
While NBC worked on a story to air the tape, the segment would not be able to run until Monday, after the second presidential debate had occurred.
At 11am on October 7th, an unidentified source from NBC reached out to Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold and offered information that would ultimately lead to the story about Trump’s comments. While Fahrenthold has claimed to know the identity of the source, he has declined to disclose that source’s identity.
Fahrenthold’s story hit the Washington Post website several hours later, sending shock waves through the presidential contest and potentially upending an already volatile race that is quickly running out of remaining days.
The Trump campaign responded to news of the tape with a short statement that did little to stop the damage.
“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.”
– Statement from Donald J. Trump.
Shortly after the statement was made public, the Trump campaign announced that an apology video would be forthcoming. Eight hours later, the campaign released a ninety-second video that included a short apology, then quickly pivoted to attacks on the Clintons.
“I’ve never said I’m a perfect person, nor pretended to be something that I’m not. I’ve said and done things I regret, and the words released today on this more than a decade-old video are one of them…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.”
The video has sparked enormous backlash, including from within the Republican Party. While Trump has appeared to forcefully push back on the idea that he withdraw from the presidential contest, key Republican elected officials and prominent operatives have called on him to be replaced. Many others have joined a growing list of fellow Republicans pulling their endorsements from Trump, cancelling appearances with him, and denouncing his comments from the video.
Criticism of Trump has come from the innermost circle around the candidate as well.
“The words my husband used are unacceptable and offensive to me. This does not represent the man that I know. He has the heart and mind of a leader. I hope people will accept his apology, as I have, and focus on the important issues facing our nations and the world.” – Statement from Melania Trump.
“As a husband and father, I was offended by the words and actions described by Donald Trump…I do not condone his remarks and I cannot defend them.” – Statement from Governor Mike Pence (R-IN), Republican vice presidential nominee.
The release of the tape could not have come at a worse time for the Trump campaign. While fresh polling to show the extent of the damage from the tape will not be available for several days, the backlash to Trump’s comments is sure to be severe. Furthermore, the release of the tape and its emergence as a campaign issue come just two days before a critical town hall debate in St. Louis. It also comes at a time when eleven states have already begun early voting, with many more expected to start within the next week.
Republicans desperate to see their nominee removed from the ballot face several obstacles, mostly revolving around Donald Trump. Most actions to replace the Republican nominee would need the consent of Trump, which Trump has indicated is not forthcoming. Additionally, many states have rules in place that prevent another candidate from stepping into that position, as ballots have already been printed and distributed in many states.
Some states also have laws in place that require members of the Electoral College to vote for the person that won a majority of votes cast in that state. So-called “faithless elector” laws prevent electors from voting for another candidate, and thus make it extremely unlikely that another candidate could receive a majority of Trump’s electors and have a path to two hundred seventy electoral votes. Even denying the Clinton campaign a majority of electoral votes is highly unlikely, as modeling sites like FiveThirtyEight’s Election Forecast project Clinton will win more than three hundred electoral votes. These projections are expected to show additional advantage to the Clinton campaign over the coming days, as new polling showing the damage from Trump’s comments are added into the model.
Finally, Trump’s comments from the Access Hollywood taping may not be the last shoe to drop in the presidential campaign. Reports indicate that footage from Trump’s time on The Apprentice may contain lewd and sexist remarks. While this footage is currently unavailable to the public, a source with access to any potential footage could release it to the media in the same manner as the Access Hollywood tape was released.
Such an event would represent another devastating ‘October Surprise’ for a Trump campaign that has no more room for error.
Michael D. Connolly, Managing Editor / Chief Political Correspondent, Lima Charlie News
Michael Connolly is a former Army Staff Sergeant who served in the Infantry, completing two combat tours to Iraq. He currently serves as the Director of Military and Veterans Affairs for the Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland-College Park. Michael is a member of the Truman National Security Project Defense Council. He graduated with an M.S. in Political Science from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Follow Michael on Twitter: @MConnollyLC