WASHINGTON – Let’s begin with the People magazine writer who says that Donald Trump took her into a room at his Mar-a-Lago estate – while his pregnant wife was changing her clothes upstairs – and “within seconds he was pushing me against the wall and forcing his tongue down my throat.”
Natasha Stoynoff is an experienced journalist with six books to her credit, and her story is similar to those told by others. A second woman says she, too, was groped by Trump at the Florida estate. Two other women told The New York Times of being accosted by Trump, one of them groped and the other forcibly kissed. A former Miss Washington says Trump “continually grabbed my ass” at a beauty pageant. Another woman alleged in a lawsuit that Trump pushed her against a wall and tried to put his hands up her dress.
Trump denies it all. But there is reason to believe these stories of sexual assault – let’s call it what it is – because of Trump’s own words about the way he treats women.
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This is the very behavior Trump boasts of in the “Access Hollywood” videotape that surfaced last week. He relates how he “moved on” co-host Nancy O’Dell, a married woman, without success. He says that when he sees beautiful women, “I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.” He says that “when you’re a star,” you can “grab them by the p––. You can do anything.”
At Sunday’s debate, Trump tried to dismiss those unguarded words as “locker room talk.” Pressed by moderator Anderson Cooper, he claimed never to have actually done any of these things. Imagine how that denial sounded to women who knew otherwise.
The creepiest new revelation comes from CBS News, which discovered footage from a 1992 interview in which Trump says of a 10-year-old girl: “I am going to be dating her in 10 years. Can you believe it?” And there have also been reports in the Guardian and BuzzFeed about Trump walking in on contestants in the Miss Teen USA pageant when they were half-dressed.
The story here is not just that Trump is a pig, which we already knew. It is that the Republican nominee for president of the United States appears not to be a rakish lothario but a sexual predator who uses his wealth and power, including his physical strength, to force himself on women.
Yet vice presidential nominee Mike Pence – who calls himself “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order” – tells audiences that Trump is “a good man.” There are no words for such hypocrisy.
The GOP claims to stand for traditional family values. Indeed, some leading Republicans abandoned the Trump Titanic when the “Access Hollywood” tape made it impossible to pretend the party had nominated a candidate worthy of the presidency. But others – notably Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – have stuck with him, hoping to survive the electoral disaster they fear is coming.
Inside the gilded Trump Tower bunker, the self-described habitual groper is reported to be in a constant rage. His narcissism leads him to blame everyone else for his predicament – the women who alleged the assaults, the news media that seek to hold him accountable, the Republicans scrambling for the lifeboats. He will never, ever blame himself.
Trump and his inner circle apparently believe that screaming about Bill Clinton’s sexual peccadilloes will somehow excuse or neutralize what we have learned over the past week. But Hillary Clinton is on the ballot, not her husband. Voters know the difference.
They also understand that women who suffer sexual assault often do not immediately come forward. In a story that People posted Wednesday night, Stoynoff described what happened after Trump allegedly jumped her at Mar-a-Lago:
“I tried to act normal. I had a job to do, and I was determined to do it. … ‘You know we’re going to have an affair, don’t you?’ he declared, in the same confident tone he uses when he says he’s going to make America great again. ‘Have you ever been to Peter Luger’s for steaks? I’ll take you. We’re going to have an affair, I’m telling you.’”
Stoynoff wrote that “like many women, I was ashamed and blamed myself for his transgression. … I was afraid that a famous, powerful, wealthy man could and would discredit and destroy me.”
Back in New York, “I asked to be taken off the Trump beat,” Stoynoff wrote. Most Americans feel the same way.
Eugene Robinson’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.