“I don’t regret anything.”
“Sometimes in the heat of debate, and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don’t choose the right words or you say the wrong thing. I have done that. And believe it or not, I regret it. I do regret it, particularly where it may have caused personal pain.”
The first statement was Donald Trump’s unscripted response this month when asked whether he regretted attacking the parents of a slain soldier. The second was read from a teleprompter yesterday after Roger Ailes, reportedly accused by multiple women of sexual harassment, and Steve Bannon, the Internet godfather of white supremacists, have begun advising Trump. Trump suggested of the latter statement that we could “believe it or not.” We choose not to believe it.
But wait. Believe what? “Wrong words” is a strange formulation. Does he mean racist, misogynistic, disrespectful of a slain soldier’s parents? “Wrong words” suggests a slip of the tongue (“in the heat of the debate,” mind you). Trump’s has been a life-long pattern of deliberate statements, particularly with regard to women. (There are lists of these going back more than 20 years.)
Trump owes us a clarification of “wrong words.” And then he needs to enumerate the ones he thinks were “wrong.” Has he contacted those people to personally apologize? Has he publicly apologized to specific people?
You have a hint that this is a giant snow job from the very next words he uttered: “I will never lie to you.” Except for those 41 Four-Pinocchio lies documented by The Post’s Glenn Kessler. Trump, by the way, is doubling down on his most famous lie: His promise to release his tax returns. Let’s get real, folks. Virtually everything that comes out of Trump’s mouth, every aspect of his agenda, is a lie. Immigrants are not “pouring” over the border; we have a net outflow along our southern border. We did not lose millions of jobs to trade. Russia and Bashar al-Assad are not on our side in the fight against the Islamic State. Trump’s entire campaign is built on lies — about the causes of problems, about current facts, about what his proposals would do, about his own record (lying about his wealth is another life-long habit) and about his opponents. If you think he doesn’t lie to you, I guess you’d buy that he “regrets” the flow of invectives, insults and attacks that have been a constant feature of his campaign. (Maybe his defenders want to claim he is a pathological liar and therefore does not have the requisite intent.)
Without the insults and lies, Trump would have virtually nothing to talk about. That’s why he uses insults and lies. Without them, he is just an aging blowhard and ignoramus.
But let’s get back to the people around him. Ailes has reportedly been accused of sexual harassment by at least 20 women. The laundry list of alleged comments, propositions, acts of retaliation and boorish behavior over decades is disgusting. This is the person now advising Trump. This is the guy whose judgment and views Trump values. Why, by the way, aren’t there more calls for him to disassociate himself from — his word for Bill Clinton — an “abuser” like Ailes?
Then there is Stephen Bannon. He made Breitbart a home for the so-called alt-right, which is just a gussied-up term for white supremacists and anti-Semites. It’s a feature of his business plan. That is his core audience. As CBS News put it:
[Breitbart] was happy to embrace fringe beliefs like birtherism and play footsie with blatantly racist notions of black criminality. It wasn’t interested in looking even faintly objective, instead inventing easily understood ‘narratives’ of crusading conservative heroes and their many victories against the hated left. . . . This was the alt-right, a collection of racists, pick-up artists, men’s rights activists, and other noxious trolls of the internet. There’s no real dogma or central text to the alt-right, and no Buckley figure, though plenty are interested in taking the mantle. It’s a loose grouping with a few unifying figures, such as Trump and the Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos.
It was the openly-gay Yiannopoulos who became the first real alt-right celebrity, and he parlayed his internet fame into a series of speaking gigs that he called the “Dangerous [F–––––]” tour. His catchphrase is “feminism is cancer” and he first rose to prominence as part of the GamerGate movement, a thing you’re free to Google. He’s also Breitbart’s tech editor and most prominent columnist.
This is how Bannon makes his living. Once again, it is remarkable there is not a chorus demanding his ouster.
Now, if you had any doubt that Trump is simply in damage control, take a look at his latest ad. As my colleague Greg Sargent points out, this is standard fare from Trump — stirring up fear of illegal immigrants and painting America as a dystopian hell. Trump is not about to give up his core supporter, the alt-right. Without that, there’s no floor to break his fall in the polls.
So, no, we don’t believe Trump’s non-apology. No teleprompter can blot out decades of rhetoric. The absence of any real admission of wrongdoing, coupled with his new fear-mongering ad and his selection of two egregious individuals, would tell any non-Trumpkin voter that his statement of “regret” is just one more lie.