The second presidential debate kicked off with the nominees taking an audience question regarding “modeling appropriate and positive behavior for today’s youth”. Following initials answers to this question from both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, debate moderator Anderson Cooper asked Donald Trump how his sexually inappropriate comments about assaulting women modeled positive and appropriate behavior. This is how Donald Trump responded:
“No, I didn’t say that at all. I don’t think you understood what was said. This was locker room talk. I am not proud of it. I apologize to my family, I apologized to the American people. Certainly, I am not proud of it. But this is locker room talk. You know, when we have a world where you have ISIS chopping off heads, where you have them, frankly, drowning people in steel cages, where you have wars and horrible, horrible sights all over and you have so many bad things happening, this is like medieval times. We haven’t seen anything likes this. The carnage all over the world and they look and they see, can you imagine the people that are frankly doing so well against us with ISIS and they look at our country and see what’s going on. Yes, I am very embarrassed by it and I hate it, but it’s locker room talk and it’s one of those things. I will knock the hell out of ISIS. We are going to defeat ISIS. ISIS happened a number of years ago in a vacuum that was left because of bad judgment. And I will tell you, I will take care of ISIS. We need to get on to much more important and bigger things.”
Trump seems to be implying that while he might feel bad about his comments they don’t matter because he’s going to defeat ISIS. On first glance it would appear that Donald Trump is attempting to deflect the question and get onto a topic with which he is more comfortable. The transition between sexual assault and ISIS may be the definition of a non sequitur. He never did answer the question. And he continues to deflect. But given new evidence, in retrospect this specific pivot may have been purposeful rather than in-the-moment self-defense.
During an interview with a local television station in Ohio, Donald Trump’s running mate Mike Pence was asked what he would say to little girls who hear the things Donald Trump has said about women about feel bad about themselves. Here is Pence’s answer. Video of the full interview below.
After the release of the recording with Trump’s comments Mike Pence said he could not defend them. Even though he since has defended the comments. But he doesn’t here. He pivots to terrorism, just as Donald Trump had in the debate. This has to be a planned pivot. Or Pence is simply taking his cues from Trump.
Pence’s message seems to be a bit different, however. Instead of Donald Trump’s message that his comments don’t matter because he will defeat ISIS, Pence is saying the comments don’t matter because unless you elect Donald Trump you’ll be dead. Sexism, misogyny and jokes about sexual assault don’t matter when you’re dead. Subtle difference, but it’s there.