Melania Trump was on-message during her interviews with CNN and Fox News on Monday, blaming the media for her husband's problems in the 2016 campaign.
But particularly interesting was her decision to blame one specific media figure: Billy Bush.
Trump alleged during her CNN interview with Anderson Cooper that Bush, who thanks to the tape has now agreed to depart his new gig as a host of NBC's “Today,” egged her husband on. The implication: Bush got Trump to say things he otherwise wouldn't have on that 2005 video.
“I wonder if they even knew that the mic was on, because they were kind of — boy talk,” Melania Trump said. “And he was led on — like egg on, from the host to say dirty and bad stuff.”
Asked by Cooper whether she meant Bush had egged Trump on, Melania replied, “Yes. Yes.”
The good news is that we have the full tape and audio with which to examine this claim!
Let's break it down:
UNKNOWN: She used to be great. She’s still very beautiful.
TRUMP: I moved on her, actually. You know, she was down on Palm Beach. I moved on her and I failed. I’ll admit it.
TRUMP: I did try and f--- her. She was married.
UNKNOWN: That’s huge news there.
This is the very beginning of the tape that we have, so we don't know what was said previously. And it's likely Donald Trump or Bush don't either, given that the conversation took place more than a decade ago.
In this particular instance, an unknown person who doesn't sound like Bush says a woman is “very beautiful,” which prompts Trump to launch into a story about how he tried to have sex with her — using another word for that — and that she was married.
TRUMP: No, no, Nancy. No this was. And I moved on her very heavily, in fact. I took her out furniture shopping. She wanted to get some furniture. I said I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture. I took her out furniture — I moved on her like a b----, but I couldn’t get there, and she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.
BUSH: She’s — your girl’s hot as s---. In the purple.
BUSH: Yes! Yes! The Donald has scored. Whoa, my man.
. . .
TRUMP: Maybe it’s a different one.
BUSH: It better not be the publicist. No, it’s her. It’s —
TRUMP: Yeah, that’s her. With the gold.
TRUMP: I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — 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.
BUSH: Whatever you want.
TRUMP: Grab them by the p---y. You can do anything.
BUSH: Look at those legs. All I can see is the legs.
TRUMP: Oh, looks good.
BUSH: Come on, shorty.
TRUMP: Oh, nice legs, huh?
BUSH: Oof, get out of the way, honey.
It is 100 percent accurate that Bush is playing along and perhaps even egging Trump on in this video. It's why Bush is no longer on the “Today” show. What's also clear, though, is that Trump took the conversation to an unsavory place that the previous comment hadn't specifically prompted.
Melania Trump may be technically accurate that Bush egged her husband on, and you could make a credible argument that he led Trump to say more than he otherwise would have. “Grab them by the p---y,” for instance, came as Bush was fully engaged in the back-and-forth.
But even setting aside for a moment the fact that Trump was a 59-year-old man at the time, it's a misleading claim, because he didn't appear to need any prompting to launch into his “locker room talk.”