On Monday, she took that argument to its logical conclusion, interviewing several of the women who stepped forward late last year to describe alleged inappropriate behavior by Trump.
“I put myself out there for the entire world, and nobody cared,” former Miss USA contestant Samantha Holvey said of her decision to go public with her accusations last year. “Let’s try round two,” she added. “The environment’s different; let’s try again.”
The White House quickly issued a statement in response to the interview.
These false claims, totally disputed in most cases by eyewitness accounts, were addressed at length during last year’s campaign, and the American people voiced their judgment by delivering a decisive victory. The timing and absurdity of these false claims speaks volumes, and the publicity tour that has begun only further confirms the political motives behind them.
That’s a remarkable statement that’s worth breaking out and assessing, line by line.
These false claims, totally disputed in most cases by eyewitness accounts …
The White House has consistently argued that the allegations against Trump are, to a word, untrue. This argument was repeated by Trump and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in recent months.
The Washington Post evaluated each of the accusations against Trump last month. In eight of the 13 situations we assessed, the allegations were supported by the women having contemporaneously described Trump’s actions to friends. In two of those eight cases, there were rebuttals offered by Trump that extended beyond a simple denial. One involved Trump’s former butler rising to his defense. The other was an uncorroborated story from a British man who had once made sweeping allegations of child molestation against members of the British Parliament.
… were addressed at length during last year’s campaign …
This is subjective, certainly. The allegations began to surface after the second presidential debate in October 2016, during which Trump was asked if he’d ever done the sorts of things described in a 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape that had come to light after it was published by The Post a few days before. In the tape Trump is heard boasting about grabbing women’s genitals.
Trump denied having ever physically contacted women against their will, prompting a number of women to come forward.
The extent to which those claims were evaluated during the last month of the election is hard to measure. In October, we looked at the number of times the subject was broached on television compared to other subjects, like the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server or hacked information released by WikiLeaks. Below, we chart the number of mentions by day.
… and the American people voiced their judgment by delivering a decisive victory.
Despite Trump’s regular assertions to the contrary, his 2016 win was not “decisive” or a “landslide.” He won the electoral college, yes, but with only 304 electoral votes, fewer than in seven of the 10 previous presidential contests.
A strong argument can also be made that the voice of the American people is better represented in the popular vote — the actual votes of Americans — than by the electoral vote, which is more like the voice of individual states. As Trump is aware, he lost the popular count to Clinton by nearly 3 million votes.
The timing and absurdity of these false claims speaks volumes …
The claims are not demonstrably absurd, and it’s also not clear why the timing of their revival is significant. The accusations emerged only at the tail end of the election last year because, as noted, Trump denied having engaged in such behavior during one of the most-watched political moments of the year. (That such accusations emerge during national political races has become a go-to defense in such situations. We walked through why in the context of Roy Moore’s U.S. Senate race in Alabama.)
… and the publicity tour that has begun only further confirms the political motives behind them.
There’s almost no chance that Trump will, at this point, suffer any political repercussions from the accusations. The point of maximum political leverage, if that was what the accusers and their supporters were aiming for, was before the election.
The timing of any bad news can always be linked to some outside cause, if desired. In the same way that Trump’s tweets are often framed by his detractors as efforts to mask some item of bad news that’s been percolating, the timing of an assault accusation against the president can always be framed as an effort to undercut the administration. There’s nothing about this particular moment that would make most objective observers think the revived accusations were an attempt to undercut Trump.
Why now? Because the issue of sexual harassment and assault has become a massive force in American culture — powered, to some extent, by Trump himself.