This defense fails. First of all, he provides no explanation of what “locker room talk” is, so we have no way of determining if these comments were “locker room talk” or not. If we try to use the definition of “talk that takes place in a locker room” then, obviously, these comments were not “locker room talk,” because they were made on a bus.
Trump’s attempted excuse collapses further because he never actually explains why these comments being “locker room talk” makes them okay. Does the “locker room talk” designation make just the bragging okay or is calling this “locker room talk” supposed to excuse the crimes of sexual assault that Trump was admitting to? If sexual assault is okay as long as it’s discussed as “locker room talk,” does that also apply to rape? What about murdering a woman? What about murdering a man? Or killing a whole bunch of people? Is it okay to plot or commit terrorism as long as you then say it was just “locker room talk”?
The above logical progression from sexual assault to terrorism may seem like reducto ad absurdum but it is a valid question. Billy Bush, the TV host to whom Trump made these comments, failed to do what Trump has demanded from other groups. During the second presidential debate, Trump responded to a question about Islamaphobia by bringing up terrorism and saying that “…we have to be sure that Muslims come in and report when they see something going on.” If that responsibility falls to Muslims who think they are seeing signs of terrorism, then surely it should also apply to other people witnessing signs of other illegal activity, for instance, TV hosts hearing a confession of multiple sexual assault crimes.
In fact, far from being troubled by what he heard, Billy Bush laughed along, egged Trump on, and then said to the next woman they saw “How about a little hug for the Donald?” Bush might not have admitted to sexual assault himself but he did make the decision to request and facilitate unnecessary physical contact between this woman and Trump, who had seconds earlier boasted about forcing himself on people by kissing them and groping them without their consent.
Trump’s excuse, Billy Bush’s encouragement of his behavior, and the recent responses to Trump’s comments that focus on the type of language he used, rather than the fact that he was admitting to sexual assault are all part of the same problem. There seems to be a failure by a startling number of people to understand that what Trump was describing was sexual assault and that sexual assault is a crime. This confusion and ambivalence about sexual assault was, of course, not created by Trump but his case neatly demonstrates how prevalent the failure to take these crimes seriously is.
According to what Trump said in 2005, he not only committed sexual assault, it was a behavior he engaged in repeatedly, he seemed to feel no remorse or regret about it when describing his actions in 2005, and his subsequent apologies are for the words he said on the bus, not for the acts he was recounting. This pattern of assault does not seem to have hindered Trump’s success in any way and didn’t stop him from becoming the presidential nominee for a major political party in this country. And rather than taking responsibility, he’s trying to invoke “locker room talk” to explain away or justify his bragging about unlawful actions. So now we have to accept that an admitted criminal sexual predator is who the GOP wants to run the country because it seems unlikely that “locker room talk” is some sort of Trump code meaning that his sexual assault admissions were, like so much else that he says, a lie.
Alexis Chapman is a Political Consultant and Writer specializing in policy analysis, from international law to local ordinances. She’s lived in Australia, Ghana, Vermont, Hawaii, and Texas and has worked for small and large NGOs, state legislature, industry associations, and a variety of publications. She is a regular contributor to Political Storm and you can find her on Twitter @AlexisAPChapman.
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