Pro-Trump Spin On Cable News Goes Off The Rails

››› ››› PAM VOGEL

Following several new reports of women alleging Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump had sexually harassed or sexually assaulted them, Trump campaign surrogates’ defenses took a bizarre turn. Here’s what Trump’s surrogates and media allies had to say during news appearances in the last day, which included dismissing the realities of sexual assault and attempting to pivot to old, debunked “scandals.”

At Least Three New Reports Emerge Detailing Women’s Allegations They Were Sexually Assaulted By Trump

NY Times: “Two Women Say Donald Trump Touched Them Inappropriately.” On the evening of October 12, The New York Times published a report detailing new allegations from two women who say Trump sexually assaulted them. Jessica Leeds told the Times that Trump “grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt” while they were seated next to each other on an airplane in 1974. Rachel Crooks alleged that Trump kissed her on the lips during a 2005 encounter at Trump Tower, where she worked as a receptionist at the time. Crooks described the incident to the Times: “It didn’t feel like an accident, she said. It felt like a violation.” Both women shared their stories for the first time in the October 12 report. [The New York Times, 10/12/16]

Palm Beach Post: “Local Woman Says Trump Groped Her.” Also on October 12, Florida’s Palm Beach Post reported Mindy McGillivray’s allegations that Trump groped her while she was assisting with a photoshoot at his estate at Mar-a-Lago in 2003. From the report:

For more than 10 years, it was something Mindy McGillivray said she shared only with a close circle of family and friends.

That changed Sunday night. Donald Trump was asked during the presidential debate about when he bragged that he kissed women without their consent and grabbed their genitals – remarks captured on audio that surfaced last week.

Trump apologized for the remarks and dismissed them as “locker room talk.” But the debate moderator, CNN’s Anderson Cooper, asked Trump to clarify: “Have you ever done those things?”

“No, I have not,’’ Trump replied.

Watching at home in Palm Springs, McGillivray said she rose from her couch and yelled at the TV screen: “‘You liar!’’’

McGillivray, 36, said she was groped by Trump at Mar-a-Lago 13 years ago. She said she never reported it to authorities.

But her companion that day, photographer Ken Davidoff, vividly remembers when McGillivray pulled him aside moments after the alleged incident and told him, ‘’Donald just grabbed my ass!’’ [The Palm Beach Post, 10/12/16]

People Writer Recounts Being “Physically Attacked By Donald Trump.” A third report from October 12 published in People magazine detailed writer Natasha Stoynoff’s alleged encounter with Trump in 2005 at Mar-a-Lago, while she was interviewing Trump and his wife, Melania. Stoynoff wrote a  first-hand account of how Trump allegedly physically intimidated her and sexually assaulted her before his butler intervened. From Stoynoff’s account in People:

We walked into that room alone, and Trump shut the door behind us. I turned around, and within seconds he was pushing me against the wall and forcing his tongue down my throat.

Now, I’m a tall, strapping girl who grew up wrestling two giant brothers. I even once sparred with Mike Tyson. It takes a lot to push me. But Trump is much bigger-- a looming figure -- and he was fast, taking me by surprise and throwing me off balance. I was stunned. And I was grateful when Trump’s longtime butler burst into the room a minute later, as I tried to unpin myself.

The butler informed us that Melania would be down momentarily, and it was time to resume the interview. [People, 10/12/16]

Sexual Assault Allegations Follow Release Of “Hot Mic” Recording Of Trump In 2005 Bragging About Sexual Assault. On October 7, The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold published a 2005 video of Trump boasting to NBC’s Billy Bush on a “hot mic” about sexually assaulting women. In the recording, Trump describes physically attacking  women without their consent, saying, “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. … Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” From the report:

Donald Trump bragged in vulgar terms about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women during a 2005 conversation caught on a hot microphone, saying that “when you’re a star, they let you do it,” according to a video obtained by The Washington Post.

The video captures Trump talking with Billy Bush, then of “Access Hollywood,” on a bus with the show’s name written across the side.

[...]

Trump and Bush appear to notice Arianne Zucker, the actress who is waiting to escort them into the soap-opera set.

“Your girl’s hot as [shit], in the purple,” says Bush, who’s now a co-host of NBC’s “Today” show.

“Whoa!” Trump says. “Whoa!”

“I’ve got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her,” Trump says. “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.”

“And when you’re a star, they let you do it,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”

“Whatever you want,” says another voice, apparently Bush’s.

“Grab them by the [pussy],” Trump says. “You can do anything.” [The Washington Post10/7/16]

Jill Harth, A Former Business Associate Of Trump, Has Alleged Trump Sexually Assaulted Her In The 1990s. Jill Harth, a former business associate of Trump, took legal action against Trump in 1997, detailing allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault, including one instance her lawyers described as “attempted rape.” Harth later dropped the case as part of a deal to settle an unrelated contract dispute with Trump. She has been speaking out again in recent months, reiterating her claims of assault. [Media Matters, 10/10/16]

Trump Campaign Surrogates And Media Allies Launch Offensive, Bizarre Defenses

On CNN, Trump Spokesperson  Says Trump Accuser Is Lying Because In The 1980’s Planes Had “Fixed Armrests.” On CNN Tonight, Trump campaign spokeswoman Katrina Pierson attempted to cast doubt on Jessica Leeds’ allegations in The New York Times that Trump sexually assaulted her on an airplane by pointing to the supposed configuration of the plane’s seats. Pierson concluded, “If she was groped on a plane, it wasn’t by Donald Trump, and it certainly wasn’t in first class.” From the October 12 edition of CNN’s CNN Tonight:

DON LEMON (HOST): My question to you is "Do you believe Jessica Leeds' account that this happened 30 years ago, on an airplane?"

KATRINA PIERSON: I do not believe it at all, it is 100 percent patently false. And as I was saying, this is the exact same New York Times that tried the same stunt back in March, and then those women came forward and debunked that article. But this is why this story is particularly ridiculous, to answer your question more thoroughly.

We're talking about the early 1980s, Don. Seriously? Back then, you had planes, what, a DC-9, a DC-10, and MD-80, 707, and maybe an L-1011?

But she said specifically this was to New York, and this is what's important, because we can X out the L-1011 and the DC-10.

Guess what? First-class seats have fixed armrests, so what I can tell you about her story --

LEMON: OK, Katrina --

PIERSON: If she was groped on a plane, it wasn't by Donald Trump, and it certainly wasn't in first class.

LEMON: We'll get -- we'll get our aviation expert here to talk about the airplane.

PIERSON: How can that happen? Explain how that happens. There are fixed seats on first class, so if it happened, it wasn't by Donald Trump. [CNN, CNN Tonight, 10/12/16]

On MSNBC, Trump Adviser A.J. Delgado Victim-Blames Assault Accusers: "Any Reasonable Woman Would Have Come Forward” Earlier. In an appearance on MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes, senior Trump adviser A.J. Delgado attempted to discredit the New York Times report of Leeds’ and Crooks’ claims. Delgado argued that, “If somebody actually did that… any reasonable woman would have come forward and said something at the time.” [MSNBC, All In with Chris Hayes, 10/12/16]

Fox Contributor And Trump Ally Newt Gingrich: NY Times Found “Somebody Who Had A Bad Airplane Flight.” On the October 13 edition of Fox Business’ Mornings with Maria, Fox contributor and Trump ally Newt Gingrich responded to the new allegations of sexual assault levied against Trump by attempting to draw a distinction between a “crude” Donald Trump “in the past” and Trump today. Gingrich also lashed out at The New York Times for interviewing a woman who said Trump sexually assaulted her on a plane, dismissing the paper for going “back over 30 years to find somebody who had a bad airplane flight.” [Fox Business, Mornings with Maria, 10/13/16]

Corey Lewandowski Attempted To Deflect To Right-Wing Attacks On Clinton On CNN’s New Day. On October 13, former Trump campaign manager, current Trump adviser, and current CNN commentator Corey Lewandowski responded to questions about the new allegations on New Day by attempting to launch a tired conservative attack on Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton instead. On the program, co-host Chris Cuomo asked Lewandowski about the allegations, and Lewandowski retreated to debunked smears about Clinton’s work in the 1970s as a court-appointed defense attorney for a man accused of rape. [CNN, New Day, 10/13/16; Media Matters, 10/9/16]

On CNN, Chairman Of Utah GOP Tried To Pivot To Conspiratorial Discussion Of “Bill Clinton’s Illegitimate Son.” At the end of a segment discussing the new Trump sexual assault allegations, chairman of the Utah Republican Party and Trump ally James Evans attempted to end the conversation by suggesting co-host Carol Costello interview “Bill Clinton’s illegitimate son” and “ask Hillary Clinton [if] is she willing to accept him.” Costello responded, “Oh please, no, that’s just rubbish. He does not have an illegitimate son. You have no proof of that.” [CNN, CNN Newsroom, 10/13/16]

Campaign Senior Adviser Boris Epshteyn On MSNBC: Why Didn’t People Writer Include Alleged Sexual Assault In Her 2005 Story? On MSNBC Live, senior Trump campaign adviser Boris Epshteyn claimed that the three separate reports of sexual assault allegations were “obviously a coordinated effort by the Clinton campaign and the media,” and argued that “until there is any proof of them, they [the stories] shouldn’t even be out there in the news.” Then, after claiming he would not “litigate each one” of the women’s stories, Epshteyn attempted to discredit Natasha Stoynoff by wondering why she would not have included the alleged incident in which Trump sexually assaulted her in her original 2005 People article about him. [MSNBC, MSNBC Live, 10/13/16]

Lewandowski On CNN Tonight: “If You Have Been On An Airplane” And “In First Class,” You Know “Someone Would Notice.” During the October 12 edition of CNN Tonight, Lewandowski offered a similar defense, telling host Don Lemon that “if you have been on an airplane,” in particular “in first class, where it’s a fairly open area,” you would know an instance of sexual assault like that described by Leeds must not have happened, because “someone would notice” if it had. Lemon also called Lewandowski’s characterization of the alleged incident -- where he falsely claimed the accuser said she would have been “ok” with Trump only touching the upper half of her body -- as “victim shaming.” [CNN, CNN Tonight, 10/12/16]

CNN Trump Apologist Kayleigh McEnany: "I Don't Think [Trump] Was Condoning Sexual Assault" In Leaked Tapes. CNN commentator and Trump apologist Kayleigh McEnany, who previously defended Trump’s 2005 sexual assault comments by denying he has been accused of sexual assault “in a court of law,” appeared on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 to react to the new claims made by Leeds and Crooks in The New York Times. When host Anderson Cooper asked McEnany about connections between the 2005 recording and the new Times report, McEnany asserted that Trump was not “advocating sexual assault” and claimed allegations of assault were “baseless.” She argued that, “He said he starts to kiss a woman and then they let him do X, Y, or Z. That implies consent.” McEnany also suggested media should report about “how the person in the inner city’s going to get out of there,” rather than about the new sexual assault allegations against Trump. [CNN, Anderson Cooper 360, 10/12/16; Media Matters, 10/10/16]

CNN’s Jeffrey Lord: Allegations Are A Political Move To Distract From Clinton Emails And Will Be “A Wash.” In a panel discussion on the same edition of Anderson Cooper 360, Trump defender and CNN political commentator Jeffrey Lord argued that the new allegations of sexual assault by Trump would be a “wash” and were a political move designed to distract from issues like Hillary Clinton’s email use as secretary of state. Lord then attempted to suggest partisan hypocrisy regarding the numerous accusations against Trump and pointed to “the sexual revolution” as evidence that “none of this stuff mattered” in the past. [CNN, Anderson Cooper 360, 10/12/16]

Trump Ally Jerry Falwell Jr. Suggests On CNN’s Erin Burnett OutFront That He Would Still Vote For Trump If Sexual Assault Allegations Were Proven. In an interview on CNN’s Erin Burnett OutFront, Evangelical leader, Liberty University president, and Trump ally Jerry Falwell Jr. suggested that he would still vote for Trump even if it were established that Trump lied during the second presidential debate about not committing sexual assaults. Falwell also claimed Trump was a “changed man,” as Burnett played clips of misogynist comments Trump has made during the course of his campaign. Falwell admitted, “I haven’t even heard the accusations, but I have seen the denial” and then accused Burnett of moving the time of his segment because she “knew” the reports were going to be published and wanted Falwell to respond. [CNN, Erin Burnett OutFront, 10/12/16]

Ben Carson On Fox & Friends: NY Times Has Created “Crap” Anti-Trump Conspiracy That Rewards Those Who “Come Out And Say Something.” In a Fox & Friends appearance, Trump surrogate Ben Carson accused the “biased” press of manipulating the public. “There’s an atmosphere that’s been created by The New York Times and others that says, ‘Look, if you’re willing to come out and say something, we’ll give you fame, we’ll give you whatever you need.’ What a bunch of crap,” Carson added. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 10/13/16]

Video at top by John Kerr amd Leanne Naramore. 

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