Fake-news claims aside, hypocrisy also surges through any condemnation Trump offers for sexual harassment, as I’ve noted previously. Even as many powerful men are punished for unacceptable behavior, ranging from the criminal to the creepy, Trump himself has escaped sanction for his own. Not only are there 16 women who have accused him of various degrees of harassment, but Trump himself admitted to sexually harassing women in the infamous Access Hollywood tape revealed in October 2016.
“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. “Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”
But the president has a new solution to that problem: He’s simply denying that it was him, offering the least plausible defense since Shaggy’s 2000 hit song. The New York Times first reported this over the weekend, and Tuesday night both The Times and The Washington Post added more detail.
“We don’t think that was my voice,” Trump told a senator, according to The Times, which adds, “Since then, Mr. Trump has continued to suggest that the tape that nearly upended his campaign was not actually him, according to three people close to the president.”
This is not the only case where Trump is at odds with plain reality. The Times again:
In recent months, they say, Mr. Trump has used closed-door conversations to question the authenticity of President Barack Obama’s birth certificate. He has also repeatedly claimed that he lost the popular vote last year because of widespread voter fraud, according to advisers and lawmakers.
One senator who listened as the president revived his doubts about Mr. Obama’s birth certificate chuckled on Tuesday as he recalled the conversation. The president, he said, has had a hard time letting go of his claim that Mr. Obama was not born in the United States.
Trump’s insistence on debunked arguments about Obama’s place of birth and about widespread voter fraud were once viewed as political posturing. For his critics, this kind of behavior was demagoguish, immoral, appalling, and divisive. For his defenders, it was perhaps a little boorish, but then again all is fair in politics; besides, they liked his willingness to throw a punch. Either way, the shared assumption for many (though by no means all) observers was that Trump was being disingenuous.
Since then, however, the president has repeatedly demonstrated that he’s not just posturing, and it’s not simply a cynical ploy. Trump isn’t being hypocritical simply for sport or political gain. His bigotry isn’t just an act to win over a certain segment of the population. Of course it wasn’t: Trump has been demonstrating that since he arrived in the news, settling a case alleging that he had kept African Americans out of his apartment buildings, up through his demand to execute the Central Park Five. He isn’t spreading misinformation just to twist the political discourse—though he may be doing that—but because he can’t or won’t assess it. It is not an act.
All of this has been clear to anyone willing to see it for a long time, yet some people have convinced themselves it’s merely an act. That includes the Republican members of Congress who shake their heads but try to ignore the tweets. It includes the senator who chuckles at Trump’s enduring birtherism. And it includes the White House staffers who, according to The Times, are “stunned” to hear their boss denying the Access Hollywood tape. It’s stunning that they’re still stunned.