"And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the p****. You can do anything."
"I did try and f*** her. She was married."
These were the words of Donald Trump, the Republican presidential candidate in the United States of America. A 2005 video that emerged on Friday showed Trump, then a reality TV star, speaking on an open microphone about groping women and trying to seduce a married woman. The video was taped only months after Trump married his third wife, Melania.
Trump has always been a politician infamous for spewing vitriol but with this tape, he definitely crossed a line by gloating about sexual assault.
And the tape has had an enormous effect on his campaign for the US presidential election. Many experts have said that Donald Trump's dream of becoming the next President is now as good as dead.
Civil war in the Republican Party
The most important fact which shows how much the tape hurt Trump was when his running mate Mike Pence said that "as a husband and father, I was offended by the words."
My statement below: pic.twitter.com/92VYEAxIcl
— Mike Pence (@mike_pence) October 8, 2016
It's not just Pence though. Trump has offended many other Republicans by his remark.
Paul Ryan, current Republican Speaker of the US House of Representatives, had said he was "sickened" by Trump's comments and had disinvited him from a political event in Wisconsin.
By Saturday, a day after the tape was leaked, about a dozen senators, a dozen members of the House of Representatives and three governors — all Republicans — had withdrawn their support for Trump, AFP had reported.
Among them was senior party leader and former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.
Senator John McCain, the 2008 presidential nominee with whom Trump has sparred repeatedly, had said, "Donald Trump's behavior... make(s) it impossible to continue to offer even conditional support for his candidacy."
According to an article in Vox, "it is McCain’s statement that drives the knife deepest. His support had served as a kind of signal that even those who’d been brutally attacked by Trump had to back him for the good of the country, and his abandonment speaks directly to that impulse."
Governor John Kasich of Ohio, a contender in the Republican primaries, had said Trump's comments were "disgusting" and that "our country deserves better".
Illinois Senator Mark Kirk had called for an "emergency replacement."
Former Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush also hit out at Trump. However, he conveniently ignored the fact that Billy Bush, his cousin, had also made cheap remarks along with Trump.
As the grandfather of two precious girls, I find that no apology can excuse away Donald Trump's reprehensible comments degrading women.
— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) October 7, 2016
Republican leaders have scheduled a rare Monday morning conference call for House Grand Old Party (GOP) lawmakers, who are out of town for Congress' election recess. The email obtained by The Associated Press doesn't specify the topic for the call, but rank-and-file lawmakers believe it's about Trump.
Trump's wife Melania had also said, "The words my husband used are unacceptable and offensive to me." She had, however, also asked the people to accept his apology.
Perhaps it was because of this kind of flak Trump was facing from both his opponents and allies that he tweeted out this desperate defence, partly in caps lock.
The media and establishment want me out of the race so badly - I WILL NEVER DROP OUT OF THE RACE, WILL NEVER LET MY SUPPORTERS DOWN! #MAGA
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 8, 2016
His tweet does have a strong message to the Republicans though. According to the Republican National Committee (RNC) rulebook, Trump will have to voluntarily withdraw his candidacy for the Republicans to replace him.
It's also interesting to note how so many Republicans have decided to abandon Trump now, when he had been making cheap statements for a long time. According to NPR, it is because of the indefensible crass language used by Trump and his bragging about sexual assault — something which deeply affects people on a personal level — that so many Republicans lashed out at him.
There is also calculation behind this move. "In offices, schools and homes all over the country, women seeing the videotape gasped, jumped, cried out, lost their composure. It seemed to matter on a level all its own," said the article. Trump had now angered a large section of white women. And because his appeal had never been too high among the minorities, the anger among the women would have been a crucial reason for the Republicans speaking out against Trump now.
However, despite out all this outrage, another report in Vox said that the tape did not have much impact on the Republican voters. A poll conducted after the tape came out on Friday revealed that Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's lead had expanded only slightly.
This makes the second presidential debate all the more important, since Trump had to face direct questions about the tape then and the voters would have seen the debate and judged him on the basis of his response to the tape. As Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges had said, "The debate is now everything."
Was Trump able to defend himself in the second presidential debate?
Not really. When the moderator told Trump that what he had described in the tape was sexual assault, Trump said, "I don’t think you understood what was — this was locker room talk." He basically reiterated that his remarks were locker room talk and did not describe sexual assault, which is not true.
Trump then strangely started talking about Islamic State and how he was going to "knock the hell out of ISIS", a desperate and failed attempt to shift the focus from the tape.
Later, Trump also said that Bill Clinton, former US president and Hillary's husband, had done "far worse". He also alleged that Hillary attacked the women who had been abused by Bill. According to AP, there is no clear, independent evidence that Hillary Clinton "viciously" attacked women who alleged or confirmed sexual contact with her husband.
In the 1992 Democratic primaries, she was deeply involved in the Clinton campaign's effort to discredit one accuser, actress Gennifer Flowers, who alleged she had a long-running affair with Bill Clinton. Both Clintons acknowledged past troubles in their marriage but sought to undermine Flowers' claims. Bill Clinton later acknowledged in a 1998 court deposition that he had a sexual encounter with Flowers.
Hillary Clinton was also quoted over the years making disparaging comments about other women linked with her husband.
But what is lacking is proof that she engineered efforts to smear their reputation.
Trump also alleged that Hillary, as a young public defender, was seen laughing at a rape victim when she was assigned to represent an accused child rapist. But as AP points out again, at no point was Hillary seen laughing at the victim.
In 1975, at the age of 12, the victim was sexually assaulted in Northwest Arkansas. Hillary was asked by a judge overseeing the case to represent her alleged attacker. After the prosecution lost key evidence, Hillary's client entered a plea to a lesser charge.
In an interview a decade later, Hillary expressed horror at the crime, but was recorded on tape laughing about procedural details of the case. The audio has been seized on by conservative groups looking to attack Hillary's presidential candidacy but does not convey mirth at the girl's fate.
Something else noteworthy during the debate was that even though Tim Kaine, Hillary's running mate, was constantly tweeting throughout the debate in support of Hillary, there was not a single tweet from Pence in support of Trump until the debate ended when he congratulated Trump for "a big debate win".
It is, thus, safe to say that Trump has been largely isolated because of the tape. Whether the voters decide that he is not fit to be president, though, is still something that remains to be seen.
With inputs from agencies
First Published On : Oct 10, 2016 12:30 IST