President Donald Trump has apparently taken to suggesting the now-infamous Access Hollywood tape was a fake. It’s a maneuver that has pretty much everyone saying, “Eh?”
Trump has on at least two occasions suggested the 2005 tape, which featured him bragging about sexual assault and emerged last October during the campaign, is not real, according to a report from the New York Times. Shortly after the tape was released, he acknowledged it was him, excused it as “locker room talk,” and apologized. But the scandal brewing around Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore reportedly has him changing his tune in a new bizarre twist.
The Times reports:
But something deeper has been consuming Mr. Trump. He sees the calls for Mr. Moore to step aside as a version of the response to the now-famous “Access Hollywood” tape, in which he boasted about grabbing women’s genitalia, and the flood of groping accusations against him that followed soon after. He suggested to a senator earlier this year that it was not authentic, and repeated that claim to an adviser more recently. (In the hours after it was revealed in October 2016, Mr. Trump acknowledged that the voice was his, and he apologized.)
The sentiment is a far cry from his videotaped statement, released soon after the tape was originally surfaced by the Washington Post:
I've never said I'm a perfect person, nor pretended to be someone that I'm not. I've said and done things I regret, and the words released today on this more than a decade-old video are one of them. Anyone who knows me knows these words don't reflect who I am. I said it, I was wrong and I apologize.
The tape features Trump bragging about the privileges of being a famous man around women. “They let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy,” he says.
The 2005 recording took place as Trump traveled in a bus with Access Hollywood host Billy Bush to meet soap opera actress Arianne Zucker. As they approach, Bush calls her “hot as shit,” and Trump jokes he should “use some Tic Tacs” in case he starts kissing her. “I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait,” he says.
Zucker reacted to Trump’s reported denials that the 2005 events took place in a Monday interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, calling the scenario “puzzling.”
“I don’t know how else that could be fake, I mean, unless someone’s planting words in your mouth. That’s the only other way, but it is puzzling to me,” she said. “How do you apologize for something and then renege on it?”
“How do you apologize for something and then renege on it?” - Arianne Zucker, who appeared in the "Access Hollywood" tape reacts to reports of Trump questioning its authenticity https://t.co/hXLaGiktCa https://t.co/VARP7ztrbR— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) November 28, 2017
Access Hollywood responded as well. “Let us make this perfectly clear, the tape is very real,” host Natalie Morales. She added, “He said every one of those words.”
When asked about the Times’s report at a press briefing on Monday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders hedged on giving a definitive answer about the president’s acceptance of the authenticity of the tape more than a year ago.
“Look, the president addressed this. This was litigated and certainly answered during the election by the overwhelming support for the president and the fact that he’s sitting here in the Oval Office today,” she said.
When asked whether his position had changed, she said it had not. “I think if [there’s] anything that the president questions, it’s the media’s reporting on that accuracy.”
Maggie Haberman, one of the Times journalists who reported Trump’s conversational doubting, stood by her reporting in a phone interview with CNN’s Cooper on Monday and said Trump had made the same suggestion about the tape possibly being inauthentic to a third party.
She said in several conversations the president has said he is not really sure it was him and in January told a senator he was “looking into hiring people to ascertain whether or not it was his voice.”
As more and more high-profile men are accused of sexual harassment — and paying the price — questions are circling back to how Trump, who has faced multiple accusations of harassment and was caught on the Access Hollywood tape admitting to doing so, should account for his actions. When asked about the wave of exposure of sexual harassment and abuse incidents recently, he said, apparently without irony, “I think it’s very, very good for women, and I’m very happy a lot of these things are coming out. I'm very happy it's being exposed.”
Now, Trump is looking for a way to question the legitimacy of the Access Hollywood tape itself — perhaps to square his comments about sexual harassers with his own alleged past behavior.
Haberman pointed out on Monday that Trump vehemently denied the tape was him when it first came out before hearing it and only acknowledged it was him when he was able to listen to it.
“I think that episode is one of the very few times I can think of that this president has been truly and identifiably humiliated in a public way and felt a lot of shame,” she said. “He has tried to wash away that embarrassment however he could.”
Late Night host Seth Meyers reacted to the Times report in a segment aired Monday night. “Wait, you’re claiming that the Access Hollywood tape was fake? Are you insane?” he asked.