When Donald Trump was asked during tonight’s presidential debate about a hot-mic recording from 2005—in which he describes sexually assaulting women—the Republican presidential candidate immediately deflected to the Middle East, citing atrocities committed by ISIL. Then he brought up US minorities. Later, after multiple follow-up questions, he brought out a carefully prepared response: several women’s stories of being sexually assaulted by Bill Clinton.
He started with ISIL (transcript via NPR):
This was locker room talk. I’m not proud of it. I apologized to my family. I apologized to the American people. Certainly I’m not proud of it, but this is locker room talk. You know what, we have a world where you have ISIS chopping off heads, where you have men frankly drowning people in steel cages, where you have wars and horrible, horrible sites all over where you have so many bad things happening, this is like medieval times, we haven’t seen anything like this — the carnage all over the world — and they look and they see. Can you imagine the people that are frankly doing so well against us with ISIS and they look at our country and they see what’s going on. Yes, I’m very embarrassed by it. I hate it. But it’s locker room talk and it’s one of those things. I will knock the hell out of ISIS, we’re going to defeat ISIS. ISIS happened a number of years ago in a vacuum that was left because of bad judgment and I will tell you I will take care of ISIS.
When asked by Cooper whether he had actually kissed or groped women without their consent, Trump said: “I have great respect for women. Nobody has more respect for women that I do.”
Pressed further on the topic, Trump started talking about borders:
And women have respect for me. And I will tell you, no I have not, and I will tell you that I’m going to make our country safe we’re going to have borders in our country which we don’t have now. People are pouring into our country and they are coming in from the Middle East and other places. We’re going to make America safe again.
After opponent Hillary Clinton responded, Trump dismissed her statement as what “just words.” Then he made a quick and confusing leap to “inner cities”:
I’ve heard them when Hillary’s constantly talking about the inner cities of our country, which are a disaster education wise, job wise, safety wise. In every way possible. I’m going to help the African-Americans. I’m going to help the Latinos, Hispanics. I am going to help the inner cities. She has done a terrible job for the African-Americans.
Cooper kept pushing Trump on the issue of sexual assault, adding onto a question from social media: “When you walked off that bus at eight fifty nine, were you a different man?” That’s when Trump brought up Bill Clinton, echoing the words of Clinton’s alleged victim Juanita Broaddrick, now a Trump supporter.
If you look at Bill Clinton, far worse —mine are words, his was action. His was far worse — what he’s done to women, there’s never been anyone in the history of politics in this nation who has been so abusive to women so…Hillary Clinton attacked those same women and attacked them viciously. Four of them here tonight….So don’t tell me about words….
Trump concluded by telling Clinton that she should be “ashamed of herself” for even talking about the recently unearthed audio.