With exactly a month to go for the US elections, a 2005 video recording that shows Donald Trump boasting about his celebrity status and how it helps him prey on women has plunged the Republican presidential campaign into a major crisis. At least two Republican leaders announced they were withdrawing their endorsement for Trump, while one asked him to drop out.
The video, unearthed by The Washington Post on Friday, has Trump making crude remarks on women. Hugely embarrassed, top Republican leaders were left profusely apologising for Trump’s remarks, with some political experts asking whether he should continue in the race.
Trump’s rival Hillary Clinton termed the remarks “horrific” She tweeted: “This is horrific. We cannot allow this man to become president.”
Here is my statement. pic.twitter.com/WAZiGoQqMQ
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 8, 2016
In the video, Trump is having a conversation with Billy Bush, an American television host, and is caught on a microphone bragging about trying to have sex with a married woman as well as kissing beautiful women and groping others. He also uses graphic terms to describe women’s bodies.
“I just start kissing them…Just kiss. I don’t even wait,” Trump is quoted saying. “And when you’re a star, they let you do it,” he says in the recording.
The video clip was part of an unaired footage of a television show.
Already accused of being a misogynist for his remarks on women, including during the campaign, Trump first issued a terse statement saying, “I apologise if anyone was offended”, and dismissed the outrageous remarks as “locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago”. He also tried to justify it by saying, “Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course — not even close. I apologise if anyone was offended.”
However, this further triggered protests from politicians as well as feminist writers, who dismissed his statement as not an actual apology. After messages in social media remarked that the things he had said in the video amounted to sexual assault, the Republican leader posted a 90-second video on Facebook at midnight, this time saying, “I was wrong and apologise.”
“I’ve never said I am a perfect person, nor pretended to be someone that I am not. I’ve said and done things I regret and the words released today on this more than decade-old video are one of them. Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am. I said it, I was wrong and I apologise,” he wrote.
However, Trump again compared his remarks to Bill Clinton’s sexual indiscretions, which he has earlier suggested he would raise during his second presidential debate with Hillary Clinton, scheduled for Sunday. The 2005 video was “nothing more than a distraction”, he said, and argued that his crude remarks were not as outrageous as the former President’s affairs, and that Hillary Clinton had “bullied” her husband’s “victims”.
Said Trump, “I travel the country talking about change for America. My travels also have changed me. (I have) spent time with grieving mothers who have lost their children, laid off workers whose jobs have gone into the other country and people from all walks of life who just want a better future. I have gotten to know the great people of our country and I have been humbled by the faith they placed in me. I pledged to be a better man tomorrow and will never ever let you down.
“Let’s be honest, we are living in the real world. This is nothing more than a distraction from the important issues we are facing today. We are losing our jobs, we are less safe than we were eight years ago, Washington is totally broken. Hillary Clinton and her kind have run our country into the ground. I said some foolish things, but there is a big difference between the actions and the words of other people. Bill Clinton has actually abused women and Hillary has bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated his victims. We will discuss this more in the coming days. See you at the debate,” his statement posted on Facebook said.
However, many political observers consider the revelations a “major turning point” in the presidential campaign. Republican leaders appeared
devastated as TV channels aired the video clip.
“No woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner. Ever,” said the chairman of the Republican National Committee,
Reince Priebus. Priebus has earlier defended Trump for his other controversial comments.
House Speaker Paul Ryan announced he had withdrawn his invitation to Trump to attend the Republican Fall Fest in Ryan’s home state Wisconsin on Saturday. US television channels quoted Ryan as saying he was sickened by Trump’s remarks. “I hope Trump treats this situation with the seriousness it deserves and works to demonstrate to the country that he has greater respect for women than this clip suggests,” he said.
Two Republican leaders, Utah Governor Gary Herbert and Jason Chaffetz, withdrew their endorsements for Trump while former governor Jon Huntsman asked him to step aside in favour of Republican vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence, the Indiana Governor. Herbert wrote on Twitter that Trump’s remarks were “beyond offensive and despicable”. “While I cannot vote for Hillary Clinton, I will not vote for Trump.”