Late Friday afternoon, October 7, a shocking video tape burst onto TV cable networks. It showed Donald J. Trump and Billy Bush of “Access Hollywood” talking and joking during a private bus ride in 2005. Trump was bragging that, because he was “ a star”, he could do “anything he wanted with women.” He said in explicit terms that, “ I would grab them by the Pxxxy.” “You can do anything. “ He also confided that beautiful women were “a magnet” and he couldn’t resist kissing them as soon as he saw them. When the bus stopped and they were greeted by a pretty young woman in a brief red dress, he leaned over and kissed her. She hugged Billy Bush. Trump was 59 and married to his third wife, Melania who was pregnant at the time. The “Bus Tape” went viral across the country and beyond. It was replayed over and over again throughout the evening into Saturday on cable.
Trump had just come through two very bad two weeks in his campaign. The first debate on September 26 between Clinton and Trump, viewed by 84 million people, was judged by media commentators and polls as a clear Clinton victory. He had refused to prepare for the debate and taunted Hillary on stage for being over-prepared. She responded, “Yes, I prepared. And, do you know what else I prepared for, Donald? I prepared to be president.” Forbidden applause and cheers erupted at her answer. Trump and his surrogates were the only ones who said he had won. He boasted that it was a “ landslide” at his post- debate rallies .
Trump was fixated for days after the debate on the Miss Universe story from l997 when the winner was Alicia Machado of Venezuela Hillary had brought up Alicia Machado near the close of the debate as an example of his insulting behavior toward women through the years. He had hosted the contest and later excoriated Machado for gaining “ a massive amount of weight” in the months that followed. He called her “the worst Miss Universe” and forced her to exercise on machines in public while he and other men stood watching close by and the scene was recorded. After the debate, Machado became a Clinton surrogate and was interviewed on cable channels about the contest and her life since then. Meanwhile, Trump refused to have mock debates in preparation for the second debate on Sunday, October 9. Instead, he held informal sessions chatting with Roger Ailes and other close advisers.
On Saturday, October 8, the New York Times banner headline read: “Trump Brags on 2005 Tape of Groping Women”. Cable talk shows were fixated all day and into the evening on his explicit lewd words and behavior. The Bus Tape was shown over and over again. Hillary Clinton was preparing for the second debate and waited to make a formal statement. Rumors circulated that the Republican National Committee was meeting in D.C. to decide what action they might take to remove Trump from the ticket. Everyone agreed the Republican campaign was in complete disarray. Trump appeared for five minutes outside Trump Tower in New York where supporters surrounded him. He waved and announced to the crowd that he would never quit. In a brief telephone interview Saturday afternoon, he said, “I would never drop out of this race in a million years.”
Sunday morning, October 9, the day of the second debate dawned with the latest Times headline: “Lewd Trump Tape is Breaking Point For Many in G.O.P. Senator John Mc Cain who had been insulted by Trump as a “captured” Navy flyer, thus” not a hero” finally withdrew his support. “Donald Trump’s behavior this week , concluding with the disclosure of his demeaning comments about women and his boasts about sexual assaults, make it impossible to continue to offer even conditionally support for his candidacy.” By early evening, 35 Republican members of Congress and governors disavowed his candidacy, including Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Senator John Thune of South Dakota, part of the Republican leadership. The party appeared to be shifting their support and resources to saving the down ballot senators and representatives on November 8.
The second debate took place on Sunday in St. Louis at George Washington University. Trump planned his own “surprise” when he brought three women who claimed to have had love affairs with Bill Clinton in the 1990’s to St. Louis. They sat with Trump at a hotel for a very brief talk with reporters, followed by their attendance in the front row of the visitors section at the debate. If his objective was to change the subject from the Bus Tape and embarrass Hillary and Bill Clinton, it appeared to have no effect upon either one of them. When Trump was questioned early by Anderson Cooper about the Bus Tape, he dismissed it as “Locker room talk” . Cooper then asked, “Did you do what you said you did?” Trump replied,” No.I did not.”
Clinton disagreed. “What we all heard and saw on Friday was Donald talking about women, what he thinks about women, what he does to women. I think it’s clear to anyone who heard it, that represents exactly who he is.” Bitter personal comments back and forth ensued. Finally, Trump said if he won, he would appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton. As she began to respond, he cut her off with “You’d be in Jail!” This interjection drew loud cries and boos from the audience. Throughout the ninety minutes, Trump appeared agitated, pacing around, scowling, leaning on his chair, never sitting down when she had the floor. At times, he walked to where she was talking to a questioner and stood, looming directly behind her. Clinton seemed composed despite his constant taunts that she was lying. She would wait until he finished a tirade and say to the audience, “Everything he just said was false.” Then she would sit down with a smile. The CNN poll after the debate gave her the victory 57 to 34. Trump left saying the moderators were with Clinton, three against one, and he had won in a landslide.
During the days following the debate, individual women began to come forth to describe their encounters with Donald Trump physically touching them against their will . They had heard the tape and were angered by his saying “ No. I did not! “ to Anderson Cooper who asked him if the Bus Tape descriptions were true. By Wednesday, cable stations were carrying Jessica Leeds, a New York woman of 74 who clearly remembered sitting next to Trump in first class on an airplane in the l970’s. After their lunch trays were removed, he lowered the arm rest and began to touch her. “He was like an octopus. His hands were everywhere.” He grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hands up her skirt. “It was an assault”, she said. She pushed him away and ran to the back of the plane. She told the story to four people close to her, one of whom was sitting with her watching the debate. When Leeds heard him lie to Cooper, she said, “I wanted to punch the screen.”
The New York Times ran her story on the front page , October 14, along with a second woman who had come forth, Rachel Crooks, a 22 year old receptionist in Trump Tower. Crooks met Trump outside an elevator in 2005 and introduced herself. They shook hands and then he wouldn’t let go. She said, “He kissed me on the cheeks and then directly on the mouth. It didn’t feel like an accident. It felt like a violation.” In an interview, she said, “I was so upset that he thought I was so insignificant that he could do that.” By Friday, nine women had come forth with their vivid descriptions of unwelcome physical abuse by Trump that matched the lewd comments he made on the Bus Tape. They were reported by Florida newspapers since some occurred at his resort there. When asked why they were coming out with their stories, they said his denial at the debate was the reason. The accusations of the women became the focus of the entire political world.
Donald Trump at his rallies , fired back by accusing all the women of “false smears and lies”. He mocked their appearance as if he wouldn’t have been interested in them. He waved his hands and suggested there was a “ conspiracy against you, the American people”. He claimed Hillary Clinton had “met in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty , in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special interest friends and her donors.” This bizarre insult was criticized by the Anti-Defamation League as a historical slur against Jews. (‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’, false anti-semitic text, l895 ) Since Trump has slandered Muslims for many months, this was the latest unwarranted attack upon an entire religion.
Michele Obama spoke Thursday at a New Hampshire rally for Hillary Clinton in dramatic, emotional terms about what physical assault meant to her and to all women. With her emphasis on “going high when they go low”, she captured her listeners with a speech that was praised and played over and over again on cable stations and C-span in the days that followed. The subject was number one in discussions and the public consciousness among women and men.
Finally, a social media phenomenon emerged with “Tweet Me Your First Assault” . Kelly Oxford, an author, had written on Twitter on Friday, when the Bus Tape was revealed. “Women, tweet me your first assaults” …I’ll go first: Old man on city bus grabs my ‘pxxxy’ and smiles at me. I’m 12.” By Monday, 27 million women had responded to Oxford’s request with their “First Assault.”