Amid the heightened scrutiny on sexual harassment and assault, it was only a matter of time before public attention would turn to the White House. During the 2016 election campaign, Donald Trump was accused of alleged sexual misconduct by several women, claims he has repeatedly vehemently denied. During the press briefing on Friday, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed the White House's "official" position on Trump's sexual harassment allegations is that the claims are lies.
A CBS reporter asked Sanders on Friday about the women who came forward to accuse Trump of alleged sexual misconduct. "Is the official White House position that all of these women are lying?" she asked. The press secretary responded, "Yeah, we've been clear on that from the beginning, and the President has spoken on it."
Trump has roundly denied all allegations of sexual misconduct against him. Not only does the president deny the accusations, most recently, he called them "fake news" in a press conference in the Rose Garden last week. Trump said, "totally fake news," and went on to claim that the accusations are "fake, it’s made-up stuff. And it’s disgraceful what happens."
This isn't the first time that Trump has said his accusers were making it up. In October 2016, weeks before the election, Trump tweeted, "Nothing ever happened with any of these women. Totally made up nonsense to steal the election." He also stressed that "nobody has more respect for women" than him.
The question aimed at the White House arrived after various allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse of power have surfaced in the entertainment, journalism, art, and tech industries. Following the allegations of sexual harassment and assault against Harvey Weinstein (Weinstein has denied all claims of non-consensual encounters), several powerful men in different industries have also suffered fallouts from being accused of similar behavior. And considering Trump sits in the most powerful position in the country, that the White House would be asked about the allegations against him was not entirely unexpected.
Trump has denied all accusations of sexual misconduct against him, but many have pointed out that his past comments indicates a different scenario altogether. Observers on Twitter brought up his infamous Access Hollywood tapes from 2005 in which Trump bragged about grabbing women "by the p*ssy." When The Washington Post published a report about the tapes last year, the backlash was swift and severe, and Trump quickly apologized. A month later, he was elected president.
The tape showed Trump's telling TV host Billy Bush that touched women without their consent, saying, "when you’re a star, they let you do it." Trump then publicly apologized for his remarks but brushed it aside as "locker-room" talk. "This was locker-room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago," he said.
Trump's remarks in those Access Hollywood tapes are critical to remember. In one part of the recording, Trump said, "I moved on her actually. You know, she was down on Palm Beach. I moved on her and I failed. I’ll admit it. I did try and f*ck her. She was married." In another part, Trump could be heard saying, "You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. I just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything."
The allegations against Trump are unlikely to disappear from the national conversation any time soon. Earlier in October, BuzzFeed News reported that Summer Zervos, who claims Trump allegedly kissed and groped her, subpoenaed documents from his presidential campaign for information regarding "any woman alleging that Donald J. Trump touched her inappropriately." Trump has denied Zervos' allegations (alongside all the other claims of sexual misconduct) saying that he had never met her in a hotel or "greeted her inappropriately." Zervos' subpoena is part of her lawsuit against Trump for defamation. The president's legal team has reportedly argued that the suit should be dismissed because he can't be sued while in office, and his attorneys also tried to dismiss the subpoena, arguing that it “seeks wholly irrelevant information intended solely to harass the president.”