Much of the talk about Donald Trump the past few weeks has concerned his troubling behavior toward women, and much of this delivered in increasingly exasperated, incredulous tones and followed by, “I mean… Come on… Are we …? You hear this stuff, right?” Whether it’s his calling for national referendums on Alicia Machado’s weight, or the Associated Press collecting enough stories of backstage sexual harassment on The Apprentice to fill an especially grueling DVD extra, the persistent, angry throb of America’s ruptured gonad continues to make sex a real issue. Fortunately, we can all relax about that and focus on our anxieties. These sexist statements were made not by the Donald Trump pretending to be president, but by the Donald Trump who was pretending for the sake of his far more popular TV show.
“A lot of this is done in the entertainment business,” Trump said of this cruel mistress that is showbiz, whom Trump could rightly call a fat pig and no one would say boo about it. After all, as Trump explained to KSNV reporter Jim Snyder during a campaign stop in Las Vegas, that’s just how things go in TV, where you’re always being called to promote your show with this or that horrid, comment. “I’m being interviewed for Apprentice long before I ever thought in terms of running for office,” he added.
Of course, Trump is running for office now, and it’s for that reason that Snyder pressed him on his more recent transgressions. Snyder asked Trump, as the father of “two beautiful daughters,” whether he could “understand the concern from parents of younger girls that some of your comments could be hurtful to girls struggling with body image and the pressure to be model-perfect?” And as a father, Trump acknowledged that, yes, he could understand. (“Sure.”) But as the host of a talent show where young people in suits must run a mini-golf course for his amusement, Trump also understands that, look, sometimes you gotta call a few women pigs.
“A lot of that was done for the purpose of entertainment … 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 replied. It suggests Trump was simply saying those things in character as Donald Trump, beloved, inexplicably demeaning host of The Apprentice. It’s similar to the defense offered by Hulk Hogan during his trial against Gawker, where he helpfully delineated the difference between the fictional Hulkster and ordinary Terry Bollea: “I do not have a 10-inch penis, I do not, seriously. Terry Bollea’s penis is not 10 inches.” Of course, in Trump’s case, the difference isn’t about having a massive dick, but being one.
As New York Magazine points out, The Apprentice debuted in 2004, so according to Trump’s explanation, he began getting into character more than a decade earlier. Trump’s famous comment, “You know, it doesn’t really matter what [they] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass” was in 1991, while his initial deriding of Miss Universe Alicia Machado as “Miss Piggy” came in 1996. You have to admire Trump’s commitment to fully fleshing out the role of a rude, self-centered, misogynist jackhole, workshopping it first on the threadbare, Off-Off-Broadway stages of NBC, before taking the character on its current, nonstop, seriously-stop tour.
Nevertheless, as Trump acknowledges, “it’s a much different world” than it was in that cruder, backwards era of 2004-2010 and about a week ago. While Trump wouldn’t agree with Snyder that he’s “trying to tone it down now”—instead offering the zen-asshole koan of “It’s not a question of trying. It’s very easy”—he still assured everyone that such bygone behavior doesn’t accurately reflect him, a real person who has more respect for women than anyone else, so don’t even bother trying to act like you do. “There is nobody—nobody—that has more respect for women than I do,” averred Trump, who has so much respect for women, like you wouldn’t believe. Tremendous, tremendous respect—more than you have, that’s for sure. All the best respects.
Anyway, in addition to reassuring women who couldn’t respect women more if they were Donald Trump himself, this interview offers the faintest, tiniest, glimmer of hope that all the other asinine shit Donald Trump says is similarly for entertainment purposes, scripted as part of the grandest, cruelest reality show ever staged.