“You called what you said ‘locker-room banter.’ You described kissing women without consent, grabbing their genitals. That is sexual assault,” said CNN’s Anderson Cooper to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump during Sunday night’s debate in St. Louis, Missouri. “You bragged that you have sexually assaulted women. Do you understand that?”
Cooper was referring to hot mic footage published Friday by the Washington Post showing Trump speaking with former Access Hollywood personality Billy Bush in 2005. In the interview, Trump described kissing and groping women, apparently without their consent.
“When you’re a star, they let you do it,” said Trump in the footage. “You can do anything.”
“This was locker-room talk,” replied Trump to Cooper on Sunday, doubling down on the roundly criticized language he used in his Friday apology for the video. During the debate, Trump also claimed he never actually did the things he suggested he had done in the video, and he seemingly glossed over the notion that kissing or groping women without their consent is assault.
Furthermore, what went unmentioned during the debate was that this is not the first time the business mogul has faced questions about this kind of alleged behavior.
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As the New York Times reported in May, journalist Harry Hurt III’s 1993 book Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump included a description of a night when the business mogul “was said to have raped Ivana,” who was the business mogul’s then-wife. According to the Times’ report:
[The book] also included a statement from Ivana that Mr. Trump’s lawyers insisted be placed in the front of the book. In the statement, she described an occasion of “marital relations” during which “I felt violated, as the love and tenderness, which he normally exhibited toward me, was absent.”
“During a deposition given by me in connection with my matrimonial case, I stated that my husband had raped me,” the statement said. “I referred to this as a ‘rape,’ but I do not want my words to be interpreted in a literal or criminal sense.”
Trump did deny having sexually assaulted Ivana, according to the Times, and when the allegation again made news during Trump’s presidential run, Ivana told CNN the news stories about the incident were “totally without merit.”
That same Times report also included comments from Temple Taggart, who was the 1997 Miss Utah, discussing an uncomfortable greeting Trump used to offer some of the young women competing in the pageants.
“He kissed me directly on the lips. I thought, ‘Oh my God, gross.’ He was married to Marla Maples at the time,” said Taggart. “I think there were a few other girls that he kissed on the mouth. I was like ‘Wow, that’s inappropriate.'”
Trump disputed this, according to the Times article.
More recently, in July of this year, the Guardian published an interview with Jill Harth, who worked with Trump in the ’90s, about a lawsuit she filed against the current Republican nominee.
The court documents from the 1997 suit allege that in 1993 Trump had subjected Harth to his “unwanted sexual advances, which included touching of plaintiff’s private parts in an act constituting attempted ‘rape.'”
Trump had said in May that the suit was “meritless,” and his offices shared emails with media outlets in which Harth told Trump he had her support in the current presidential race.
The suit was dropped weeks after it was filed, when Trump settled another suit with Harth’s then-partner, George Houraney.
But Harth stood by her story during her interview with the Guardian.
“He pushed me up against the wall, and had his hands all over me and tried to get up my dress again,” Harth told the outlet. “And I had to physically say: ‘What are you doing? Stop it.'”
However, debate moderators on Sunday night did not ask Trump about these alleged instances, instead dwelling on the tape published by the Post.
“Just for the record … are you saying that what you said on that bus 11 years ago, that you did not actually kiss women without consent or grope women without consent?” asked Cooper in response to Trump’s “locker-room talk” comment. As Danielle Paquette noted in the Washington Post, Cooper’s assessment of Trump’s comments as “sexual assault” seemingly relies on the U.S. Department of Justice’s definition as “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.”
After a back-and-forth between Cooper and Trump, during which the candidate repeatedly claimed he had respect for women but didn’t directly answer the moderator’s question, Trump finally responded, “No, I have not.”
In the time since Trump’s debate performance, Campaign Manager Kellyanne Conway criticized Cooper for even daring to ask the candidate about whether he had done what he claimed to have done in the video. Conway said it “demeans” sexual assault survivors to use the term “sexual assault” because there is a “difference between words and actions.”
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