Before I can write this week’s column, I have to get something off my chest.
If Bill Clinton raped Juanita Broaddrick in 1978, then he deserves the harshest penalty available under the law. Quite frankly, that goes for any of the allegations against him. It’s also important for me to say that I believe Broaddrick and the other women, too. In a world quick to give the benefit of the doubt to alleged attackers (especially famous ones), I’ve always believed that the victim deserves every benefit of the doubt.
That’s it. I’m not even going to remind people that these allegations shouldn’t be held against Hillary Clinton, the actual candidate for president. That’s what I believe, but I think each person needs to take this information and weigh it as they see fit when deciding whom to vote for. Candidates who stand for public office do so while carrying all the baggage they’ve accumulated over the course of their lives, as it pertains to the office they are seeking. And people must own their mistakes, and not try to deflect attention elsewhere.
The most recent revival of the claims against Bill Clinton comes from Donald Trump, in an attempt to steer attention away from last week’s release of the recorded statements captured on a “hot mic” 10 years ago on an Access Hollywood taping. On the tape, Trump boasts of doing things that would amount to some level of a sexual-assault charge in any state in this country.
Let’s review: “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait,” Trump told Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush. “And when you’re a star, they let you do it,” Trump continues. “You can do anything. … Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”
I’m not the first to point this out, but that’s describing nonconsensual, unwanted sexual conduct. And it’s not an allegation from a victim who’s available for Trump’s supporters to rip apart. These are words from Trump’s own mouth; it’s a confession.
Unsurprisingly, Trump and his followers are trying to write this off as only words, as just “locker-room talk.” In fact, Trump used that phrase so many times during the Oct. 9 debate that it spurred a number of pro athletes to take to social media to dispute his flippant phrasing.
“Claiming Trump’s comments are ‘locker-room banter’ is to suggest they are somehow acceptable. They aren’t,” tweeted Dahntay Jones, of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Former Detroit Pistons star Grant Hill said: “I’ve been in a lot of locker rooms, and what Trump said is not locker-room banter. Don’t let this pass.” Hill also included a link urging people to register to vote.
But these recent revelations didn’t even seem to slow Trump down. He laid out a half-assed apology before deflecting the spotlight onto Bill Clinton. Hours before the debate, he held an event with the women who have accused Clinton of sexual misconduct. Trump presented these women publicly for his own benefit, not for theirs. And by the time the debate started, apologetic Trump (if he ever existed) was gone, and he doubled down on his arrogance and refused to own up to his behavior. Take this exchange from the debate:
“You described kissing women without their consent, grabbing their genitals. That is sexual assault,” debate moderator Anderson Cooper said. “You bragged that you have sexually assaulted women. Do you understand that?”
“No, I didn’t say that at all,” Trump answered. “I don’t think you understood what was said. This was locker-room talk. I’m not proud of it. I apologized to my family, I apologized to the American people.”
The real problem for Trump is that a lot of us do understand what he said, Democrats and Republicans alike. Now members of his party and former supporters are abandoning him, whether it’s because they are sickened by what he said, or because they’re jumping off a sinking ship.
Despite all of that, Donald Trump is still running for president and, sadly, still has his supporters. Last Thursday, at a congressional debate at Penn State Beaver, U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus (District 12) said he supported Trump because Trump would sign Republican-led legislation. On Saturday, Rothfus condemned Trump’s comments: “I am sickened by Mr. Trump’s offensive comments. They are vile and wholly unacceptable, and I strongly condemn them.” On Monday morning, he issued comments about Sunday’s presidential debate, but didn’t menton Trump anywhere in the release.
On Monday, I asked Rothfus’ campaign for clarification about whether Rothfus still stood with Trump. I received no answer, but later that day, I saw Rothfus on the stage with Trump, smiling and yelling how a Trump victory means he can finally repeal Obamacare, an obsession of Rothfus’ for four years.
I wish I could say that continued support of Trump surprised me, but it doesn’t. Trump says all the things that the zealots and conspiracy theorists on the right have been waiting years to hear: Repeal the Affordable Care Act, stop the war on coal, put Hillary Clinton in prison. If Trump’s elected, he’ll take care of all of the “atrocities” in this country.
Well, except the ones he confessed to.