With less than a month until the November 8 election, news media have found out how to cover the mind-bending and absurd spectacle of Donald Trump. The answer: give a platform to the Trump supporters, who are willing to stand up for him despite an avalanche of sexual-assault accusations.
Media Matters, a Democratic-leaning organization that follows the news media, TV and radio in particular, put together a wholly astonishing array of statements from Trump surrogates, trying desperately to defend their nominee or reject the accusations of sexual assault in the wake of what they dub the “locker-room tape.”
Jessica Leeds described an assault in the 1980s to The New York Times, “About 45 minutes after takeoff, she recalled, Mr. Trump lifted the armrest and began to touch [her]… He was like an octopus.”
One mind-numbing response to Leeds’ accusation was put forward by Trump’s national spokeswoman Katrina Pierson. She had the gall to discuss what type of planes were in use in the early 1980s, as a way to debunk the charge.
On Don Lemon’s CNN segment, to the utter amusement and astonishment of her co-commentators, Pierson began: “We’re talking about the early 1980s, Don, seriously. Back then, you had planes, what, a DC-9 a DC-10, an MD-80 and maybe an L1011. But she said specifically New York, and this is what’s important: We can ex-out the L1011 and the DC-10. And what, first-class seats have fixed armrests. So what I can tell you about her story is she wasn’t groped on a plane, it wasn’t by Donald Trump, it certainly wasn’t in first class.”
The argument here isn’t that Donald Trump wouldn’t grope a woman — although he admitted to doing so in the "Access Hollywood" tape — but that Leeds’ story was invented because the armrests on an MD-80 or a DC-9 couldn’t have been lifted.
On Fox News, Newt Gingrich came to Trump’s rescue: “Well, The New York Times goes back
over 30 years to find someone who had a bad airplane flight, that’s the essence here.” We’ve all had “bad airplane flights.” Really? When was the last time Gingrich was
groped by a stranger on a plane? It is vile to use such dismissive language in the context of sexual assault.
(For those who remember the Clinton/Lewinsky saga, which blanketed the news media for a year, Gingrich led the charge that Clinton should resign due to alack of character. For Gingrich and any Republican who touts "family values" but defends Trump, moral imperatives are elastic. They only apply to political foes, not political allies. This isn't a sane defense; this is moral bankruptcy.)
Another common thread throughout Trump’s defense: The timing is opportunistic. So is Trump’s decision to hold a press conference with Bill Clinton accusers — just hours before the second presidential debate.
The timing defense took another troubling turn when Trump senior advisor AJ Delgado told Chris Hayes on MSNBC that if this actually happened: “Any reasonable woman would have come forward and said something.” We know from recent and past cases of sexual assault that this is patently untrue, particularly when the men in question are rich and powerful.
Kayleigh McEnany, ubiquitous Trump surrogate on CNN, gave what appears to be the most ludicrous description of what was said on the "Access Hollywood" bus. Speaking with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, she noted: “I don’t think he was condoning sexual assault. He said he starts to kiss a woman and then they let him do x, y or z. That implies consent, first of all. I don’t think he was advocating sexual assault.”
Trump is in a tough spot with less than a month left until Election Day. His surrogates are flailing as they try to defend the waves of sexual-assault accusations. We are guaranteed to hear even more preposterous conspiracy theories, including the Breitbart-inspired Clinton conspiracy with the “global elite.”
Whatever happened to the Republican cry of personal responsibility?