Editorial: Trump’s video release fuels his public downfall

Donald Trump speaking at Pittsburgh's shale conference earlier this year. Jordan Mondell | Assistant Visual Editor

In case you haven’t heard, the Washington Post released a video from 2005 of behind-the-scenes footage of Donald Trump and Billy Bush on Access Hollywood.

The audio — recorded while Trump and Bush were wearing mics — revealed a series of vile comments made by the Republican presidential candidate toward women. The nearly three-minute long recording includes Trump saying that his power as a celebrity entitles him to grab women without their consent, that he cannot help but start kissing someone he’s attracted to and making comments about the actress Arianne Zucker, whom both men were waiting to meet.

There’s simply not enough print in this paper to address the litany of issues that come with a serious presidential candidate making these kinds of comments — not to mention the way his supporters have defended them as off-the-cuff “locker room talk.” So here are some of the main points of concern:

  1. This is not just “locker room banter.”

In an attempt to vindicate himself, Trump released a statement saying, “This was locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago … I apologize if anyone was offended.”

Dismissing these remarks as casual conversation does not make the situation any better. The language isn’t just degrading, it’s violent, suggesting that Trump “grabs” women at will. A public figure who acknowledges the existence of violence in “locker room talk” is dismissing the pervasiveness of rape culture.

Sexual assault is not a joke, it’s a crime. Feeling entitled to women’s bodies is not a perk for being famous, it’s the foundation of rape culture. Objectifying women is not a “boys will be boys” conversation starter, it’s a green light for devaluing and disrespecting women.

We should also note the implicit observation that this is the way men talk — made explicit by former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper — is insulting to men and terrifying for women. No, Giuliani, Trump, Bush, all men don’t talk that way, and asking the president to be more respectful than the quarterback of a high school football team isn’t outrageous.

Trump released a statement following the video in which he said he’s not a “perfect person” and has learned from his mistakes. But has he? Don’t forget that it was only days ago that Trump made similar comments toward former Miss Universe Alicia Machado. If Trump doesn’t take his own words seriously, then we have no responsibility to take him seriously for the presidency.

  1. Bill Clinton’s past is not your shield.

As an attempt to flip the scandal back onto the Clintons, Trump said, “Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course — not even close.”

It’s perfectly within reason to criticize Bill Clinton’s history with women, and to draw attention to allegations that he has sexually assaulted women in the past. But not as a defense mechanism for Trump’s own inappropriate, dangerous behavior. The “I’m a bad man, but so is he” defense is elementary at best.

Furthermore, let’s stop furthering the notion that Hillary Clinton should be responsible for her husband’s infidelities, or the comments he’s made on the golf course. Bill Clinton wasn’t standing on the debate stage Sunday night, so let’s leave him out of it.

If we’re going to bring up Bill Clinton’s past, it would be useful to acknowledge that sexism is ingrained in our history and culture, including politics, and we should probably be at least a little bit grateful that we’ve started actively pointing it out. This is what the public should’ve done to Bill Clinton — held him accountable for his words and actions. Let’s not screw it up this time.

  1. By public demand, NBC should release more footage.

NBC News originally had the breaking footage of Trump last Monday, but the company hesitated and an insider leaked the story to the Washington Post, which posted the story in less than five hours.

Since NBC, as an entity, had several ties to Trump, including producing both Miss Universe and The Apprentice, the company sought legal counsel upon releasing the video and was concerned about the legal issues of releasing the tape. Trump’s wealth and army of powerful lawyers puts undue pressure on the media company to withhold stories and avoid lengthy, expensive lawsuits. Most recently, NBC told the Associated Press that they will not release any more footage of Trump, despite revelations that they may be hiding even more sensitive, newsworthy footage recorded from The Apprentice.

Trump’s continuous use of threat to sue companies is an abuse of power. Public information should not be controlled by those who have the wealth and resources to sue media companies. Gawker is a pure example of this, which is why NBC would be reluctant to release any more information on Trump. This trend tips the scale in favor of those on top, who can essentially pay to suppress information they don’t want the public to know.

If NBC is serious about their role as a news outlet, they would not succumb to this unjust practice. Take the risk, stand up to Trump and inform the public who our future leaders really are.

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