The second presidential debate was tonight and, as expected, the Donald Trump “pussy” tape — where, among other things, he bragged about groping women without their consent — was a major topic of discussion.
Not mincing words, CNN news anchor Anderson Cooper asked Trump point blank why he boasted and bragged about grabbing women’s genitals. In fact, Cooper did not cushion his interrogation by approaching Trump’s comments as if he may not have been self-conscious of the fact that he was condoning sexual assault. Anderson took Trump’s condolence of violating women for granted and asked why the Republican nominee was promoting sexual assault.
Trump, who was clearly visibly annoyed, began his response by repeating the excuse he offered previously, calling the 2005 discussion “locker room talk.” “It’s just words,” he insisted to the audience, all the while refusing to apologize. After repeating that phrase again, he added that he “hates” what happened.
Noticeably absent was a direct apology to women for his “words.”
And none came. Instead of addressing the issue of rape culture head-on, and making some attempt to sympathize with the survivors of sexual assault, Trump spent two minutes poorly dodging this political bullet by shifting the conversation to ISIS, terrorism and all the “wars” unfolding in the world:
“I don’t think you understood. This was locker room talk. I’m not proud of it. I apologize to my family. To the American people. Certainly I’m not proud of it. But this is locker room talk. When we have a world where you have ISIS chopping off heads, where you have frankly drowning people in steel cages, wars, and horrible, horrible fights all over — so many bad things happening. We haven’t seen anything like this, the carnage all over the world. Can you imagine the people that are frankly doing so well against us with ISIS? And they look at our country and see what’s going on. Yes, I’m very embarrassed by it. I hate it. But it’s locker room talk and it’s one of those things. I will knock the hell out of ISIS. We’re going to defeat ISIS.”
This a common political tactic, and Trump is not the first to use it. However, with Mr. Trump’s campaign spiraling out of control, one would think he would exercise more caution in this space about his “words.” One would think he would exhibit judgment that enables an intelligent person to realize that it is possible to discuss both terrorism and sexism, domestic and foreign issues — without using one to distract audiences from the other.
ISIS is a problem, Mr. Trump. War is a problem, Mr. Trump. However, so are rape and toxic masculinity and sexual predation. Invoking one to distract from the other not only proves Hillary Clinton’s point about your un-fitness for the presidency; it reveals the truly despicable man we all know you to be.