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After a week of feuding with Alicia Machado — a Hillary Clinton supporter and a former Miss Universe contestant who Donald Trump once called “Miss Piggy” for gaining weight — Trump says he can explain his past comments: “A lot of that was done for the purpose of entertainment,” Trump told KSNV reporter Jim Snyder while campaigning in Las Vegas.
Trump has a long history of using sexist language. He has called women “fat pigs” and “slobs” and salaciously commented on women’s attractiveness. When developing the idea for The Apprentice in 1991, he famously said: “You know, it doesn’t really matter what [they] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass,” New York magazine reported. Most recently he attempted to smear Machado’s name by alleging she had a sex tape (which didn’t exist) and calling her “disgusting.”
Now — recognizing that some might be concerned by his sexist comments — he is justifying his past sexist transgressions by claiming they were part of his job on a reality TV show.
“You know you’re in the entertainment business, you’re doing The Apprentice, you have one of the top shows on television — you say things differently for a reason,” Trump said.
Here is the full exchange with Snyder (emphasis added):
SNYDER: You have two beautiful daughters past their teenage years … Do you understand the concern from parents of younger girls that some of the wording that you’ve used to talk about attractiveness or unattractiveness might makes it more difficult for girls who are struggling with their body image and the pressure to be model-perfect?
Trump: Sure I do. And you know, a lot of this is done in the entertainment business. I’m being interviewed for Apprentice long before I ever thought in terms of running for office —
Trump: — obviously this was something I just felt I had to do because I see where the country is going. It’s going so wrong in so many places. Where we give 1.7 billion in cash to Iran. I mean so many things I see that are so wrong. So this was really something that I just decided to do. But a lot of that was done for the purpose of entertainment. And you know, when people hear it and when they hear there is nobody, I can tell you this: There is nobody — nobody — that has more respect for women than I do.
Snyder: Are you trying to tone it down now?
Trump: Well, it’s not a question of trying. It’s very easy. But you know, you’re in the entertainment business. You’re doing The Apprentice. You have one of the top shows on television. And you say things differently for a reason.
Trump: And now it’s a much different world. But I will say this. I will say this. Nobody has more respect for women and nobody is gonna defend our country stronger than Donald Trump, and I think I’m gonna do very well with women. And in fact, I see married women are way up right now in my polls, you see that.
Hillary Clinton was recently asked about Trump’s comments on Machado at a family town hall event this week, responding to a teenage girl’s question about body image. “We can’t take any of this seriously anymore,” Clinton said of Trump’s brand of sexism.
“We need to laugh at it. We need to refute it. We need to ignore it. And we need to stand up to it,” Clinton added. “We’re not all going to end up being Miss Universe, I hate to tell you … So let’s be the best we can be. Let’s be proud of who we are.”
Trump has a big issue with women voters
Trump’s presidential campaign has been marked by bouts of sexist comments — and voters have noticed.
A feud with Fox News host Megyn Kelly prompted by a debate question about Trump’s history of degrading women, his comments on Carly Fiorina’s face and Clinton’s voice and “stamina,” and reports of a womanizing past have put the Republican nominee in a tight spot with women voters.
A Fox News poll from the end of September generously showed Clinton had a 23-point lead over Trump in women voters. CNN’s poll, as well as several others — including CBS and Monmouth — had Clinton leading by roughly 12 points among women voters.
And from exit polling during the primaries, Trump supporters have time and time again proven to be predominantly white and predominantly male. Trump only wins 72 percent of Republican women, according to the New York Times. (Romney won 93 percent of Republican women in 2012.)
"For Donald Trump to win the White House he must find a way to attract more women voters to his candidacy," Dante Chinni wrote for NBC in May.
Based on the past 20 years of polling data, women play an important role in general elections in two significant ways: Women disproportionately vote for the Democratic candidate, and they consistently make up more than 50 percent of the electorate.
Trump brought on Kellyanne Conway to manage his campaign. The first female campaign manager of a Republican presidential candidate, Conway has an established career advising politicians to win female voters. But the situation is still bleak for Trump.
In Chinni's analysis of Trump’s position, Trump's best-case scenario means raising his support among male voters to the highest of any candidate in the past three decades and bringing Clinton's support among women to the lowest of any candidate in the past three decades — and that still doesn't quite make the cut. He wrote:
Even if Trump can do all of that — get his advantage with men up to Bush's 11-point edge and get Clinton's edge with women down to just 11 points — he still would come up short in the popular vote because of the first part of the equation: women produce more votes. It would be very close though, a margin of just less than a percentage point, maybe close enough to put the all-important Electoral College tally in play.