During Sunday’s presidential debate, Trump denied that his leaked comments from 2005 indicated sexual assault and insisted they were nothing more than “locker room talk.”
“You called what you said ‘locker room banter,’” CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, who moderated the debate, said to Trump. “You described kissing women without their consent, grabbing their genitals. That is sexual assault. You bragged that you have sexually assaulted women. Do you understand that?”
Trump denied Cooper’s accusation and insisted Cooper simply didn’t understand. He said he was “embarrassed” by the comments but repeatedly called them “locker room talk” and “one of those things.”
According to the Department of Justice’s definition of sexual assault, however, what Trump described is exactly that: “Sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.”
Cooper pressed on, “Just for the record though, are you saying what you said on that bus 11 years ago, that you did not actually kiss women or grope women without consent?”
As Trump continued to deflect the question Cooper asked, “So for the record you’re saying that you never did that?” and “Have you ever done those things?”
Trump eventually responded, “No I did not” before insisting that he has “tremendous respect” for women and they respect him back.
In the leaked audio, Trump demonstrates what many people — including a number of fellow Republicans — have found as not portraying “tremendous respect” for women.
“You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful [women] — I just start kissing them,” Trump said. “It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.”
He attributed his ability to touch and kiss women without their consent to his celebrity status. “When you’re a star, they let you do it,” he said. “You can do anything.”
[Warning: attached transcript contains graphic language.]
“Grab them by the p—y,” Trump said. “You can do anything.”
Trump insisted that his comments do not reflect who he is as a person. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, however, said his comments should be taken exactly the way they were stated.
“What we all saw and heard on Friday was Donald talking about women, what he thinks about women, what he does to women,” she said. “And he has said that the video doesn’t represent who he is, but I think it’s clear to anyone who heard it that it represents exactly who he is.”
Trump has previously made comments displaying a lack of understanding when it comes to sexual assault. When former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes was accused of sexually assaulting numerous women, including former Fox employee Gretchen Carlson, Trump called it “sad” for Ailes.
“He’s such a great guy. Roger is — I mean, what he’s done on television, is in the history of television, he’s gotta be placed in the top three, or four or five,” he told Bloomberg Politics’ Co-Managing Editor Mark Halperin. “And that includes the founding of the major networks. So, it’s too bad. I’m sure it was friendly.”
Trump’s insistence that his own comments were “locker room talk” and that Ailes’ conduct was “friendly” perpetuates a dangerous culture of accepting sexual assault.
“That’s nothing less than someone talking about committing sexual violence — the kissing, the grabbing,” Bridgette Stumpf, co-executive director of Network for Victim Recovery of D.C., told The Washington Post. “He’s talking about women as if they’re objects, as if they don’t have a right to consent to the way someone touches them. This is how sexual violence becomes accepted in our culture.”
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one out of five women will be raped at some point in their lives. In eight out of 10 cases, the victim knows the person who assaulted them. And an estimated 63 percent of sexual assaults go unreported. The prevalence of false reporting is between 2 percent and 10 percent.