Trump and Clinton’s exchange on sexual assault summed up the entire election
Hillary Clinton no doubt came into the third and final presidential debate Wednesday night looking for an opportunity to bring up the sexual assault allegations Donald Trump has faced in recent weeks, and moderator Chris Wallace provided one.
When Wallace asked the Republican nominee about about the nine women who have accused him of past sexual assault, Trump responded: “Fiction,” “lies,” and “totally false.”
The candidates’ exchange on sexual assault cut directly to one of the key demographic divides of this year’s election. In the first U.S. presidential race pitting a female major-party nominee against a man, the sexes are choosing sides. Women voters are overwhelmingly leaning toward Clinton, a Democrat, while men much more narrowly prefer GOP nominee Trump. Polling data shows the biggest divide among gender since at least 1952, FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten reported. After nine women claimed in the last two weeks that Trump kissed or groped them without their consent, this gap could widen even further.
But Trump was adamant. “I didn’t even apologize to my wife because I didn’t do anything,” he added, asserting that the accusers must want “10 minutes” of fame or that they were put up to it by Clinton’s campaign. “I don’t know those people.”
Clinton seized the opportunity. “Donald thinks belittling women makes him bigger,” she said. “He goes after their dignity, their self-worth,” adding that women across America know what that feels like.
She cited the many instances of Trump calling women “disgusting,” his criticism of a former Miss Universe as “an eating machine,” and his explanation that he could not have committed sexual assault against some of his accusers because they were not attractive enough.
“I did not say that,” Trump interrupted. “Her two minutes,” Wallace said, maintaining order.
Clinton continued by crisply quoting Trump’s own words: “He went on to say, ‘Look at her, I don’t think so.’ About another woman, he said, ‘That wouldn’t be my first choice.’”
Election Day, she continued, is an opportunity “to demonstrate who we are” by rejecting Trump.
After Clinton’s rebuke, Trump repeated his regular line that “no one has more respect for women than I do.”
Then he asked to talk about something a “little different” and went on to discuss Clinton’s private email server. “She mentions this, which is all fiction, all fiction, lies,” he said. “But I will tell you what is not fictionalized is her emails where she destroyed 33,000 emails, criminally.”
Near the end of the debate, Trump went even further. During an exchange about taxes, when Clinton suggested he might try to get out of paying certain taxes, Trump called her “such a nasty woman.”