Last night, Donald Trump went for his first major interview since he was heard bragging about sexual assault - and he chose the one prime time interviewer who could empathize with being a sexual predator: Bill O’Reilly. And sure enough, O’Reilly let his buddy off the hook.
The Trump sexual assault ignored by Bill O'Reilly
In the now-infamous "Access Hollywood" video, Donald Trump is heard bragging about grabbing women “by the p***y,” kissing them without permission and moving on a married woman “like a b***h,” despite being rebuffed by her. From The Washington Post which first published the 2005 video:
“I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married,” Trump says. “Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.”
“I’ve got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her,” Trump says. “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — 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,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”
“Grab them by the p---y,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”
This video was so explosive that a stream of Republicans, including the most powerful elected Republican, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, have withdrawn their support of Trump. I wrote about how Trump engaged in an unhinged vendetta in my first post about this interview. But something more subtle and maybe more important also happened.
Trump has argued in his so-called apologies that he was merely engaging in “locker room talk,” and “foolish” comments that were of little significance. The obvious inference was that while he may have been wrong in 2005, those who think this is a big deal now are the current wrong-doers.
Let’s be clear, Trump was not engaging in offensive, childish talk (when he was nearly 60) about the size of women’s breasts or even his own sexual prowess. He was boasting about sexually abusing women.
How O'Reilly let Trump off the hook over his sexual abuse
Anyone want to bet that Trump knew that by going to The O’Reilly Factor, he would not be challenged on the "locker room" meme? After all, O’Reilly (whom, Trump said, he has known for 20 years) has twice been accused of being a sexual predator himself. First, in 2004, there was the bombshell lawsuit (quickly settled) by former O’Reilly producer Andrea Mackris. This year, Fox News host Andrea Tantaros cited O’Reilly’s behavior as part of the pattern of sexual harassment she endured during her employment at Fox. Fox did not defend him in a response to her suit.
Sure enough, O’Reilly downplayed the import of the Trump tape when he brought it up. Tellingly, O'Reilly's concern for women was whether or not Trump could win back their votes. (Transcript excerpts via FoxNews.com, with my emphases)
O’REILLY: Have you assessed how you’re going to win back women who were offended by the recent exposition from “Access Hollywood”? Do you have a plan to get those women back?
TRUMP: Well, first of all, locker room talk, and most people have heard it before, and I’ve had a lot of women come up to me and said, boy, I’ve heard that and I’ve heard a lot worse than that over my life. And, you know, if that’s why I’m going to lose an election to get rid of ISIS and to create strong borders and rebuild our military and do all the things we’re going to do, including Supreme Court judges and saving the Second Amendment, because it’s under siege with Hillary Clinton or as I call her crooked Hillary, which is what she is. If that’s what it’s going to take to lose an election, I would be pretty sad then I have to go back to my other life.
O’REILLY: All right.
Later, O’Reilly delicately referred to the video as “the tape thing.”
O’REILLY: You attacked McCain today as well, because he was mad about the tape thing. If you’re elected president—
TRUMP: He was desperate to get my endorsement. I gave him the endorsement because he needed it for the primary, and frankly, he ran against a very, very good woman. I feel very badly, I gave him the endorsement. But that’s okay.
[…] He easily wins his primary. He easily wins his primary. And then all of a sudden, you know, he does the un-endorsement thing.
O’REILLY: He didn’t like the tape thing.
TRUMP: He’s never heard, give me a break. He’s never heard salty language before. You know, John McCain who has probably the dirtiest mouth in all of the Senate has never heard, you know, he talked about lewd—
O’REILLY: Can I ask a question, please?
O’REILLY: If you’re elected president, you’re going to need McCain and you’re going to need Ryan. You’re going to need these guys.
TRUMP: They will be there. They will be there. I would think that Ryan maybe wouldn’t be there. Maybe he will be in a very different position. But McCain will be there, they’ll all be there.
O’Reilly claims that his show is the “No-Spin Zone” and that he is “looking out for you” every night. But in this case, the two people O’Reilly really looked out for were milkshake BFF Trump and himself. And, of course, his continuing access to Trump.
Watch O’Reilly it below, from the October 11, 2016 The O’Reilly Factor.
UPDATE: Erik Wemple has a great column on O'Reilly generally going soft on Trump during this interview.