Four days ago, Donald Trump's campaign manager Kellyanne Conway implored supporters to retweet her if they agreed that victims of sexual assault should be believed.
She was making a point about Hillary Clinton — using Clinton's own tweet from months ago and suggesting Clinton was being hypocritical by not supporting Bill Clinton's accusers. But Conway clearly seemed to come down on the side of believing accusers. She even highlighted Clinton's use of the word “every” in a tweet: "Every survivor of sexual assault deserves to be heard, believed, and supported."
RT if you agree. "Every" the operative word here. https://t.co/hqvij2DPjA
— Kellyanne Conway (@KellyannePolls) October 10, 2016
Today, Conway and the Trump campaign are faced with arguing that not every sexual assault accuser should be believed — specifically, the growing number of Trump's accusers. They were hit with new allegations on Wednesday night, including from two women who spoke on the record to the New York Times, one who spoke to the Palm Beach Post and a first-person account by a writer for People magazine.
And the Conway tweet wasn't the only thing the Trump campaign has said that makes its defense harder today.
In its response to the New York Times story — more details on all the accusations are here — the campaign stressed how old the alleged encounters were. One of them was more than three decades ago on an airplane, while the other was in 2003.
“To reach back decades in an attempt to smear Mr. Trump trivializes sexual assault, and it sets a new low for where the media is willing to go in its efforts to determine this election,” Trump spokesman Jason Miller said.
Top Trump backer Newt Gingrich suggested much the same on Thursday morning:
Newt Gingrich: "The New York Times goes back over 30 years to find somebody who had a bad airplane flight..." pic.twitter.com/PDLxeNoNm9
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) October 13, 2016
Except ... the Trump campaign has in recent days begun pushing hard on the idea that other decades-old allegations — against Bill Clinton — are very salient to this campaign. And at Sunday's debate, Trump played up Hillary Clinton's defense of an accused child rapist in 1975 and her comments about it in the 1980s.
Finally — and perhaps most damningly, politically speaking — the new allegations sound strikingly similar to the behavior that Trump himself described on that 2005 “Access Hollywood” video that The Washington Post surfaced on Friday and which he now is arguing was just bluster. Some of them also line up with things he said while talking to Howard Stern.
In the “Access Hollywood” video, Trump brags about being able to go up to women and just start kissing them and even groping them.
“I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything,” Trump said on the tape. “Grab ’em by the p---y. You can do anything.”
People magazine writer Natasha Stoynoff, in her piece about Trump allegedly forcing himself upon her in 2005, suggests that's essentially what happened to her:
We walked into that room alone, and Trump shut the door behind us. I turned around, and within seconds he was pushing me against the wall and forcing his tongue down my throat.
Rachel Crooks told the Times a similar story:
They shook hands, but Mr. Trump would not let go, she said. Instead, he began kissing her cheeks. Then, she said, he “kissed me directly on the mouth.”
It didn’t feel like an accident, she said. It felt like a violation.
“It was so inappropriate,” Ms. Crooks recalled in an interview. “I was so upset that he thought I was so insignificant that he could do that.”
And Jessica Leeds, who told the Times about her alleged airplane encounter with Trump, describes a sudden and surprising assault:
About 45 minutes after takeoff, she recalled, Mr. Trump lifted the armrest and began to touch her.
According to Ms. Leeds, Mr. Trump grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt.
“He was like an octopus,” she said. “His hands were everywhere.”
One of the other allegations this week comes from Tasha Dixon, a former Miss Arizona, who has said in multiple interviews that Trump strolled into the contestant's dressing area even when they were naked — a claim echoed to BuzzFeed by contestants in the Miss Teen USA competition, where competitors are younger than 18 years old.
Trump's own comments on Stern's show, as reported by CNN over the weekend, show him copping to that very same type of behavior at his beauty pageants.
“I’ll go backstage before a show, and everyone’s getting dressed and ready and everything else,” he said, per CNN. “And you know, no men are anywhere. And I’m allowed to go in because I’m the owner of the pageant. And therefore I’m inspecting it. ‘Is everyone okay?’ You know, they’re standing there with no clothes. And you see these incredible-looking women. And so I sort of get away with things like that.”
Trump has played off his lewd comments as “locker room talk” and claimed he hadn't actually engaged in the kinds of behaviors he talked about on the “Access Hollywood” tape, but the allegations made by these women sound a whole lot like what he was describing.
And when you combine that with how the campaign has pressed its case on allegations made against the Clintons — both by saying accusers should be believed and that decades-old misdeeds matter — it becomes much harder to set up a convincing political defense.