NEW YORK — On a bus headed to the set of the soap opera “Days of Our Lives” in 2005, Donald Trump was secretly recorded saying he was drawn like a magnet to beautiful women. “I just start kissing them,” he boasted. “I don’t even wait.”
After the recording was released Friday, backlash didn’t wait, either. Critics across the political spectrum said the Republican presidential nominee’s comments crossed the line from vulgarity to assault and underscored a need to push back against misogyny and so-called rape culture.
“Someone with such disrespect for women, with such a misogynistic lifestyle who boasts about using his power to sexually assault women cannot — and will not — be the leader of this country,” said National Organization for Women president Terry O’Neill.
On the tape, Trump brags about women letting him kiss and grab them because he is famous. “When you’re a star they let you do it,” Trump says. “You can do anything.” He adds seconds later, “Grab them by the p—-. You can do anything.”
Dozens of Republican officials called for their own presidential nominee to quit the race. Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, tersely stated: “No woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner. Ever.”
Kelly Oxford, an author and social media personality, posted an account of an older man on a city bus grabbing her crotch and smiling at her. She asked other women to share their own harrowing assault stories, and thousands did, pushing #NotOK into a trending topic on Twitter.
Trump has provided plenty of fodder for the conversation. He has called a Miss Universe winner “Miss Piggy,” referring to actress Rosie O’Donnell as a “pig,” and speculated that Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly asked him tough questions because she was menstruating.
One sidebar of the debate centred on whether men really talked that way when they are not around women. “All men talk like this, get over it,” wrote someone with the Twitter handle @psychicempress. To which many replied: “No they don’t.”
Since that 2005 conversation, sexual violence against women and how society deals with it are more often discussed, in part because of the rise of social media. The issue was at the centre of an outcry over a six-month jail sentence for a former Stanford University swimmer who sexually assaulted an unconscious woman. Fox News chief Roger Ailes was recently ousted over charges of his mistreatment of women.
And sexual violence is the main issue surrounding charges that Bill Cosby, 79, drugged and molested a woman at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. Cosby, who has faced multiple accusations of sexual misconduct from various women, says his encounters with women were consensual.
In a statement, Trump initially called his remarks “locker room banter.”
Brandon Morrow, a pitcher with the San Diego Padres, tweeted that he’s been around locker room banter but Trump’s words were “a few of the most disgusting things I’ve heard a man say.”
Daniel Weingarten, a 24-year-old Los Angeles-based actor and writer, posted a video in which he shot down the notion that men behind closed doors talk like Trump. “Real men don’t say these things. Real men don’t brag about sexual assault like it’s a badge of honour.”
Trump called the taped comments “a distraction from the issues we are facing today.” He said that his “foolish” words are much different than the words and actions of Bill Clinton, whom he accused of abusing women, and Hillary Clinton, whom he accused of having “bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated his victims.”
Right-leaning radio host Laura Ingraham tried to defend Trump, saying that while “objectifying women with graphic language is appalling,” liberals have “little credibility on this issue.”
But Trump supporters were easily swamped by outraged Americans.
“As a human being, I am appalled by Trump’s words,” tweeted Matthew Carson of Tallahassee, Florida. “As a father of 4 boys, I pray I can raise them to be better than that.”