A visibly agitated Donald Trump on Thursday delivered a rambling response to recent allegations of sexual harassment and assault made against him by several women. In a nearly hour-long speech, he attacked the credibility of the women making the accusations, and then veered off into descriptions of a massive global conspiracy against him and his presidential campaign.
At times, Trump’s angry rant carried more than a whiff of paranoia.
“The central base of world political power is right here in America, and it is our corrupt political establishment that is the greatest power behind the efforts at radical globalization and the disenfranchisement of working people,” he claimed. “Their financial resources are virtually unlimited. Their political resources are unlimited. Their media resources are unmatched. And most importantly the depths of their immorality is absolutely unlimited.”
He added, “This is a conspiracy against you the American people and we cannot let this happen or continue. This is our moment of reckoning as a society and as a civilization itself.”
Trump left no doubt as to who he believes is pulling the strings of this shadowy cabal: his Democratic challenger for the presidency and her husband, former president Bill Clinton.
“The Clinton machine is at the center of this power structure,” he said. “We’ve seen this firsthand in the WikiLeaks documents in which Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of US sovereignty.” (Trump seemed to be referring to the leak of the text of speeches Hillary Clinton was paid to give at events sponsored by investment bank Goldman Sachs.)
“The Clintons are criminals, remember that, they’re criminals,” Trump said. “This is well documented and the establishment that protects them is engaged in a massive cover-up of widespread criminal activity at the State Department, at the Clinton Foundation in order to keep the Clintons in power.... Never in history have we seen such a cover-up as this.”
As it went on, Trump’s speech became increasingly apocalyptic in tone.
“This election will determine whether we’re a free nation or whether we have only the illusion of democracy but are in fact controlled by a small handful of global special interests rigging the system -- and our system is rigged,” he said. “This is reality, you know it, I know it, they know it and pretty much the whole world knows it. The establishment and their media enablers wield control over this nation through means that are very well known. Anyone who challenges their control is deemed a sexist, a racist, a xenophobe and morally deformed. They will attack you, they will slander you, they will seek to destroy your career and your family.”
He added, “[T]heir agenda is to elect crooked Hillary Clinton at any cost, at any price, no matter how many lives they destroy. For them, it’s a war. And for them, nothing at all is out of bounds. This is a struggle for the survival of our nation, believe me, and this will be our last chance to save it.”
The Republican nominee also spent considerable time casting himself in the role of willing martyr for his supporters. Suggesting that negative news stories about him are all false, he said they were, nevertheless, “hurtful.”
“I never knew that it would be this vile, that it would be this bad, that it would be this vicious,” he said. “Nevertheless, I take all of these slings and arrows gladly for you. I take them for our movement so that we can have our country back.”
He reminded the crowd that he doesn’t need to campaign for president, and could have simply lived a life of luxury while avoiding what he described as an “absolute horror show of lies deceptions, malicious attacks.”
Again, he stressed, he was doing it for his supporters and for the country. “I’m doing it because this country has given me so much and I feel so strongly that it is my turn to give back to the country that I love.”
When he addressed the women who claim to be victims of his sexual assaults, he raged against the media, and The New York Times in particular.
“These vicious claims about me, of inappropriate conduct with women, are totally and absolutely false,” he said. “And the Clintons know it and they know it very well. These claims are all fabricated. They are pure fiction and they are outright lies. These events never, ever happened.”
He went on to say, “We already have substantial evidence to refute these lies and it will be made public in an appropriate way and at an appropriate time. Very soon.”
He also attacked People magazine writer Natasha Stoynoff, who wrote a first-person account describing alleged attacks by the Republican presidential nominee. She had been writing a profile of Trump and his wife, Melania, at the time, and he demanded to know why she had not mentioned the alleged assault in the article.
(For her part, Stoynoff wrote, “[L]ike many women, I was ashamed and blamed myself for his transgression. I minimized it (“It’s not like he raped me…”); I doubted my recollection and my reaction. I was afraid that a famous, powerful, wealthy man could and would discredit and destroy me, especially if I got his coveted People feature killed.”)
Trump also appeared to suggest, at one point, that Stoynoff was not attractive enough for him to assault. “You take a look. Take a look. Look at her. Look at her words,” he said. Then, speaking in a lower register, he added, “You tell me what you think. I don’t think so.”
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