During his second debate with Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump denied having ever engaged in the sexual assaults he boasted about in the Access Hollywood tape. I had understood that the debate would consist of the candidates answering questions from members of the “town hall.” But Anderson Cooper decided to take over the questioning so he could press Trump about whether his boasts were true. Initially, Trump avoided that question, but eventually said they were not true. I transcribed the exchange here.
Now, two women tell the New York Times that Trump did engage in unwanted advances. The alleged advances consisted of groping (in the case of Jessica Leeds) and kissing (in the case of Rachel Crooks).
The claims may well be true. They are consistent with Trump’s boasts. To me, they seem consistent with his “take whatever I want” character.
Nor do Trump’s denials count for much. He continues to deny saying, pre-invasion, that he supported the war in Iraq even though there’s tape of him expressing support (albeit mild) for the war. Like his opponent in this race, Trump has displayed scant regard for the truth.
Nonetheless, there is reason to doubt the claims of Ms. Leeds and Ms. Crooks. Why are we hearing about them only now? It’s not so much that the alleged victims did not publicly complain at the time of Trump’s alleged advances. In the case of Ms. Crooks, at least, not publicly complaining was reasonable considering her age (22), Trump’s power, and the fact that she worked at Trump Tower.
More significant is that fact that neither woman came forward publicly until about a year after Trump emerged as the Republican frontrunner. Why didn’t they? If Trump had behaved so egregiously, one would expect them to do their best to nip his candidacy in the bud.
I’m skeptical about Ms. Leeds’ claim that she came forward publicly only now because she became enraged by Trump’s denial during Sunday’s debate of misconduct. If Trump did to her what she claims, she must have been enraged all along by the thought that he might become U.S. president — something that was a very realistic possibility until quite recently.
Leeds, it seems to me, is being used by the Clinton campaign as part of a well-orchestrated, well-timed effort to portray Trump as a predator. Same with Crooks. It’s a classic ambush — an October surprise.
If, as I believe, these women are collaborating with the Clinton campaign as to the timing of their allegations, they may also be collaborating as to the content. In other words, there is reason to question their credibility.
This doesn’t mean their allegations are false. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are true. But I am not going to have my voting decision influenced by allegations that seem more designed to help Hillary Clinton, whom both women say they support, than to enlighten the public about the real Donald Trump.