As the #MeToo movement continues to gather steam, toppling powerful man after powerful man, attention is finally returning to the elephant in the room: the numerous allegations of sexual misconduct against President Donald Trump.
Many immediately associate the allegations with the infamous Access Hollywood tape — on which Trump was caught bragging about grabbing women by the genitals — but that isn’t the only time Trump has boasted about sexual misconduct, and how he’s able to get away with it.
During Monday’s press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked about Trump’s 2005 comments on Howard Stern’s radio show, where he bragged about being able to sexually harass models by walking in on them while they were naked in their changing rooms. Sanders’ response was to simply blow off the question.
“The president told Howard Stern in 2005 he walked into a teen beauty pageant dressing room where he said teen contestants had no clothes on because he could sort of get away with things like that,” CBS News’ Jacqueline Alemany asked. “Is that not an admission of sexual harassment?”
“The president has spoken about this directly,” Sanders replied. “I don’t have anything further to add.”
Trump’s boasts about being able to enter the teen contestants’ changing room was one of a slew of crude remarks Trump made over the years on Stern’s show, including talking about his daughter, having sex with women on their menstrual cycles, and not dating women over 35.
“Well, I’ll tell you the funniest [sic] is that before a show, I’ll go backstage and everyone’s getting dressed, and everything else, 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,” Trump said to Stern. “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 went on to add that, before he took over the contest, “they were starting to take women who were educated over women who were hot.”
On Monday, three of the numerous women who have accused Trump of sexual assault and harassment spoke to Megyn Kelly about their experiences. One of the women, Jessica Leeds, described how Trump called her a “c**t” after allegedly groping her on an airplane. Samantha Holvey said Trump ogled her and the other Miss USA contestants. Rachel Crooks said Trump forcibly kissed her in Trump Tower in 2005.
“It is heartbreaking,” Holvey told Kelly. “We’re private citizens and for us to put ourselves out there to try to show America who this man is and especially how he views women and for them to say, ‘We don’t care,’ it hurt. And so, you know, now, it’s just like, all right, let’s try round two. The environment’s different. Let’s try again.”
The White House, meanwhile, has continued to deny the accusations and defiantly smear Trump’s accusers, saying the official White House position is that all of the women are liars.
Several Democratic lawmakers have seized on the #MeToo movement and called for an investigation into Trump, or for the president to step down. “President Trump should resign,” Sen. Kirsten Gilibrand (D-NY) told CNN on Monday. “These allegations are credible; they are numerous. I’ve heard these women’s testimony, and many of them are heartbreaking.” Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Cory Booker (D-NJ) have all made similar calls for Trump to resign.
While a Congressional investigation into the president seems unlikely, especially given Republican dominance of both the House and Senate, it does show how the spotlight is slowly turning on Trump in the wake of a wave of sexual misconduct allegations against powerful men in politics, media, and entertainment.
Leeds said Monday that she wanted a see an inquiry into Trump’s behavior. “I think that’s fair. They were more than willing to do that for Senator Franken,” she said. “Why is the president immune to that?”