Coming off what was, by any standard, the worst week of his campaign, things aren’t exactly looking up for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who awakens Monday to a story from the Associated Press in which former contestants and crew members on his successful television show The Apprentice accused him of crude and inappropriate behavior on the set.
The story, by Garance Burke, relies on nearly two dozen sources, many of them willing to go on the record, recounting Trump’s boorish behavior, including inappropriate comments about the bodies of women involved with the show and public discussions of which ones he would most like to have sex with. On multiple occasions, sources told the AP, he compared women’s bodies and looks to those of his daughter, Ivanka Trump.
“Most men have to behave because they are in a workplace, but he could do what he wanted,” one former contestant, Tanya Alvarado, told the AP. “In all jobs, people have to sign sexual harassment paperwork, but Mr. Trump was putting on a TV show so he got to do it.”
The revelations come after a week in which Trump perversely insisted on perpetuating a feud with former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, who went public with stories of how Trump publicly shamed her for gaining weight after she won the beauty contest at age 19. Machado’s comments about Trump were coordinated with the Hillary Clinton campaign, and the Democratic nominee brought her into the discussion by mentioning Trump’s treatment of Machado during last week’s presidential debate.
Trump, rather than letting Machado’s accusations fade away, as it seemed to be doing later in the week, instead launched an early morning Twitter attack on Friday, calling her “disgusting” and urging his followers “check out sex tape.” Machado was involved in a racy scene that appeared on a Spanish reality television show but did not make the sort of pornographic material that Trump (and legions of his online supporters) was suggesting.
The AP story will conflict with a reported effort by Trump, beginning with remarks in Colorado today, to change the focus of the election to a contrast between how he and the Clinton family earned their respective fortunes. Trump, according to The Washington Post, is expected to claim that his self-professed status as a billionaire is a result of his own hard work. At the same time, he will try to raise questions about how the Clintons, who claimed to have little money when former president Bill Clinton’s second term ended, were able to amass hundreds of millions of dollars over the next 10 to 15 years.
However, that line of attack may also be blunted. On Saturday, the Trump campaign learned that the New York Times had obtained tax documents indicating that Trump claimed a staggering $916 million net operating loss on his personal income tax return in 1995 -- an amount that would have made it possible for him to legally go as long as 18 years without paying any federal income taxes.
There are now just 36 days remaining in the presidential campaign, and it seems likely that the weight of the accumulating scandals and negative press coverage will necessarily color the remaining weeks of the election. A first test will come tomorrow night, when the two vice presidential candidates, Indiana’s Republican governor, Mike Pence, faces off with Democratic Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine.
The two men, both with experience as governors as well as extensive time spent in the federal legislature, are steeped in policy and can serve as eloquent spokesmen for their respective parties and campaigns. However, it now seems inevitable that they will have to spend a considerable amount of time dealing with the distractions related to Trump’s sexist behavior and his extraordinary financial losses.
The Clinton campaign is clearly relishing the coverage Trump has been receiving over the past week, as well as the GOP nominee’s reaction to it. “Donald Trump’s campaign is showing all the signs of entering a spiral,” Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon told the Washington Post. “At a very critical stage in the campaign, he is making our own arguments for us about his lacking the temperament to be president. As he continues to lash out and go low, as he flails to keep things together, we are intending to focus on her affirmative vision.”
For their part, Trump’s campaign and his surrogates are attacking the media for its coverage of their candidate. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani each repeatedly referred to Trump as a “genius” on Sunday while bashing press coverage of his taxes.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich opined on Twitter, “The liberal media is working on every possible Trump smear because they can’t win on any big issues. beyond disgusting. It is an outrage.”