On October 7, only a mere two months and yet a lifetime ago, a decade-old tape surfaced of then-longshot presidential candidate Donald Trump trying to impress Access Hollywood host Billy Bush by bragging about grabbing women by the pussy. Many Americans reacted to the tape with disgust. Others defended Trump’s words as just locker room talk. But 26 brave Americans took it a step further, standing up against sexual assault by complaining to the Federal Communications Commission about networks that aired news stories about the scandal. Let’s take a moment to celebrate those heroes.
“CNN news kept repeating the footage of Mr. Trump saying the word ‘pussy’ many times,” complains one Doral, Florida resident. “It was early in the day that I heard the word pussy, and all throughout the day that was all I could think about.”
The Access Hollywood tape was shot in 2005, less than a year after Trump had married his third wife Melania and mere months before the birth of his fifth child Baron. Grabbing a woman “by the pussy” without first getting her consent is sexual assault. But these complaintants were more upset by descriptions of the act than the act itself.
Due to their colorful spelling and punctuation, all of the complaints quoted here are (sic).
“I was listening to CNN today and they purposely played Donald Trump including words like pussy and many other foul words in the middle of the day!” wrote one incensed viewer in Savannah, Georgia. “They should be punished to the full extent!”
Compared to other TV events that led to FCC complaints, the fallout from the Access Hollywood tape controversy was minimal. After Justin Timberlake showed America Janet Jackson’s nipple during the 2004 Super Bowl Halftime Show, the agency fielded more than half a million indecency complaints. South Park, Family Guy, SNL, and even some children’s television programs have garnered more outrage than Trump’s pussy boast. That might be, in part, because, according to the FCC’s website, the agency hasn’t historically enforced indecency complaints against cable channels. That means viewers distraught over hearing “pussy” on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News were almost certainly barking up the wrong tree.
But the ones who barked sure barked like dogs who spotted a squirrel in the backyard.
The 26 complaints, which the Daily Beast obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, came from 13 different states. The highest concentration came from Florida, followed by a tie between New Jersey, California, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, and Washington. Twenty of the complaints were against CNN, but NBC, CBS, and Fox News also faced their share of ire.
“Pervasive language,” complained one Oxford, Indiana cable news viewer. “On the Situation room with Wolf Blitzer….Playing the Audio message from Donald Trump in 2005 was not appropriate “Pervasive Language.” Certain words should have been bleeped out such as “Pussy”. We have children and this is not what we want them to hear on a news station.”
“On Friday evening 10/7/16 at approximately 6:50 pm CNN (Wolf Blitzer) aired what was purportedly an audio of Presidential candidate Donald Trump using obscene and vulgar language…..right st the dinner hour with children in the room,” said one dismayed Ft. Meyers, Florida resident. “This us disgusting news coverage. They should be fined in public view. Their story and their bloated who’s should not take precedence over FCC guidelines.”
Blitzer specifically was named in four of the 20 complaints lodged against CNN. Two complaints specifically focused on Republican pundit and anti-Trump-er Ana Navarro.
One particularly long-winded viewer in Oceanside, California, apparently armed with a thesaurus and a copy of the DSM-5 with half the pages ripped out, was particularly incensed by a CNN appearance Navarro. During the appearance, which went viral after airing, Navarro laid into a fellow panelist who objected to Navarro’s use of the word “pussy” in describing Trump’s words. “I am strongly recommending you terminate Ana Navarro,” writes the viewer in a letter sent to CNN CEO Jeff Zucker.
The viewer continues. “Along with her words, her vociferous attack on the other panel member was completely unacceptable, replete with an ugly facial expression that could perhaps best be described as feral.”
The viewer goes on to suggest Navarro would have violently attacked her fellow panelists, had she been in the same place they were, and that she was perhaps insane and in need of psychiatric treatment.
One Atlanta resident smelled a conspiracy in CNN’s decision to report on this particular news story. “This afternoon around 5 pm EST, CNN began airing an unedited recording of Donald J Trump using words that I would be shocked to hear on any network at this hour. Specifically, the words “bitch,” “tits,” “shit,” and “pussy.” CNN has aired this tape (obviously for political purposes) several times without bleeping the audio.”
“Hi… I am appalled that CNN was SOOOOO DUMB that they played the un-edited version of Donald Trump’s video of him talking about women on a bus,” writes one aggrieved Maryland resident. “The words ‘PUSSY’ and ‘SHIT’ were played without bleeping them out… i simply can’t let this go. I am sitting here on vacation with my wife and 1-yr-old daughter….and CNN is so desperate for ratings they let this language go live….at 5 pm on a Friday when so many children might be watching.”
“CNN is continuing to run over and over Donald Trump audio with bitch and pussy on live TV,” said one Iowan. “My children just heard it and we are going to sue.” Perhaps this particular Iowan has a television that cannot be turned off.
The “pussygate” shock waves were felt in beyond audio of the Access Hollywood recording. One Saturday Night Live viewer in West Palm Beach, Florida was driven to complain about indecency by Alec Baldwin’s impersonation of Donald Trump talking about pussy-grabbing. Another, in New Hampshire, complained after seeing a protest sign that said “pussy” on it on Fox News’ The Kelly File.
Ultimately, not enough Americans cared about the word “pussy” to get anybody from cable TV fired or fined. In fact, not enough Americans even cared enough to prevent the man who said the most newsworthy ever utterance of the word “pussy” from getting to the White House. It takes a lot more than “grab them by the pussy” to grab a swing voter’s attention.