Rob Burgess

The third (and mercifully final) presidential debate is set for tonight and will be moderated by Fox News’ Chris Wallace at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

On Oct. 7, the now infamous Billy Bush tape from 2005 was published by reporter David Fahrenthold of The Washington Post in which now Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump bragged about committing habitual sexual assault. Many Republicans have pulled their endorsements. (Though, in a conference call to GOP lawmakers Oct. 10, House Speaker Paul Ryan said he won’t defend Trump or campaign with him, he still won’t pull his support. Riding the fence in this manner seems to please no one.)

Oct. 8, Trump issued a video apology, but immediately went on the attack. “Bill Clinton has actually abused women, and Hillary has bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated his victims,” he said.

Oct. 9, Trump held a press conference with Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey, Paula Jones (who accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault) and Kathy Shelton. (Hillary Clinton served as the court-appointed attorney for the man who raped Shelton at 12 in 1975, Thomas Alfred Taylor.) They then attended the second (this time, town hall-style) presidential debate moderated by CBS’ Martha Raddatz and CNN’s Anderson Cooper at Washington University in St. Louis as Trump’s guests. During the debate, Trump called his 2005 statements “locker room talk.” (Even though neither he nor Bush were anywhere near a locker room.) After being repeatedly asked by Cooper if he had ever done what he boasted about to Bush, Trump finally denied it.

To date, nearly 12 women have come forward to back up the claims Trump himself was recorded making. (Not counting the women who say he walked into their dressing rooms, and the two instances he told underage girls he’d be dating them in a few years.) Oct. 12 alone, Natasha Stoynoff of People magazine wrote an essay, Jessica Leeds and Rachel Crooks told their stories to The New York Times’ Megan Twohey and Michael Barbarao, and Mindy McGillivray spoke to the Palm Beach Post’s Joe Capozzi for the same reason: They said they were all incensed at Trump’s denials during the debate. (McGillivray said she is now leaving the country.)

Trump’s lawyer, Marc E. Kasowitz, sent a letter the same day to The New York Times’ executive editor, Dean Baquet, calling the article “reckless, defamatory and constitutes libel per se” and demanded an immediate retraction. The paper declined. “Nothing in our article has had the slightest effect on the reputation that Mr. Trump, through his own words and actions, has already created for himself,” wrote The New York Times’ lawyer, David McCraw, in a letter Thursday. “We welcome the opportunity to have a court set him straight.”

I don’t see how you defend Trump’s repugnant answer. “You take a look. Look at her. Look at her words. You tell me what you think. I don’t think so,” Trump said of Stoynoff during a Thursday rally in West Palm Beach, Florida. “Believe me, she would not be my first choice, that I can tell you. You don’t know. That would not be my first choice,” he said of Leeds during a Friday rally in Greensboro, North Carolina.

To refute Leeds’ claim, the campaign arranged for a witness to meet with The New York Post’s Daniel Halper on Friday. “Anthony Gilberthorpe, 54, said he was sitting across the first class aisle from the couple and saw nothing inappropriate,” he reported. “Gilberthorpe made headlines in 2014, when he went public with a claim that as a 17-year-old he procured boys (some who ‘could have been underage’) for sex parties with high-ranking British politicians. Gilberthorpe has no evidence to back up his claim — just his self-described excellent memory.”

Bill Clinton is not running. And Trump apparently didn’t have a problem with the Clintons when he invited them to his 2005 wedding. He asks us to believe Bill Clinton’s accusers. Let’s use the same logic for Trump’s accusers too, then. I don’t blame these women for staying silent this long given this reception.

Rob Burgess, Tribune city editor, may be reached by calling 765-454-8577, via email at rob.burgess@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter at twitter.com/robaburg.

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