Donald Trump appeared Sunday evening, an hour before the second presidential debate in St. Louis and 29 days before Election Day, with four women who have accused Bill and Hillary Clinton of rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, or protecting a sexual criminal.
The event was an unprecedented display of shamelessness and lack of taste from a major party presidential nominee and what’s more, an incrimination of Trump himself: If the standard for rape is an accusation, not a formal charge or guilty conviction, Trump—who was accused of rape by Ivana, his first wife (who later recanted, not uncommon for victims of sex assault) and by Jill Harth, a makeup artist, who claimed in a 1997 lawsuit that he groped and attempted to rape her in his daughter Ivanka’s bedroom—is just as guilty as the former president.
At a press conference streamed on Facebook Live, Trump appeared at a table with Juanita Broaddrick, a former nurse who claims Clinton raped her in 1978, Kathleen Willey, a former White House volunteer who claims Clinton sexually assaulted her in 1993, Paula Jones, a former Arkansas employee who claims Clinton sexually harassed her in 1991, and Kathleen Shelton, who says she was raped in 1975 by Thomas Alfred Taylor, whom Hillary Clinton represented as his public defender.
Several reporters were in the room along with Steve Bannon, the CEO of Trump’s campaign and former head of Breitbart News, the pro-Trump propaganda site that’s spent the last 24 hours publicizing the claims of the four women.
Michael Bender, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, began by asking Trump, “does your star power allow you to touch women without their consent?”—a question Trump ignored.
“So, uh, thank you very much for coming and these four very courageous women have asked to be here and it was our honor to help them,” Trump said. “And I think they’re each gonna make just an individual short statement and then we will—we’re gonna have a little meeting we’ll see you, uh, at the debate. Perhaps we’ll start with Paula.”
Jones sat at the end of the table in two Victoria’s Secret zip-up hoodies and a baseball hat. “Well, I’m here to support, uh, Mr. Trump because he’s gonna make America great again and I think everybody else should vote for him and I think they should all look at the fact that he’s a good person, he’s not what other people have been saying he’s been like Hillary, so think about that.”
Shelton, who first told her story to The Daily Beast in 2014, said she was also in attendance to support Trump. “At 12 years old Hillary put me through something that you would never put a 12-year-old through and she said she’s for women and children.”
“You went through a lot,” Trump told her.
“Yes, sir, I did,” she said.
Broaddrick began by saying that “actions speak louder than words” and Bill’s alleged rape of her, coupled with Hillary’s alleged threats, don’t compare to the words Trump said in the 2005 tape published by The Washington Post Friday.
Willey said she was “here to support Donald Trump. The reason for that is the first day that he announced for president he said I love this country and I want America to be great again I cried when he said that because I think that this is the greatest country in the world.”
Trump silently nodded as she spoke.
“Thank you all very much, we appreciate it,” Trump said.
Reporters began shouting questions at Trump about the tape, in which he bragged he could “grab” women by the “pussy” anytime he wanted because, “when you’re a star, they let you do it.”
Before he could respond, Jones began shouting.
“Why don’t y’all ask Bill Clinton that! Why don’t y’all go ask Bill Clinton that! Go ahead and ask Hillary as well!”
And with that, it was over.
It’s unclear if the spectacle succeeded in rattling Clinton ahead of her performance, or if it will shift the spotlight away from Trump’s sins. But one thing is certain: Tonight’s debate will be unlike anything we’ve ever seen.