Did Trump Do A Sextape?: Some Takeaways from Trump’s First Press Conference
Note: This story originally appeared on my blog on January 11, 2017.
About twelve hours ago, Donald Trump gave his first press conference as President-elect of the United States. Having missed the first half, I watched the conference in its entirety on YouTube.
Like all of Trump’s public speaking engagements, today’s press conference was a disjointed and self-aggrandizing word salad. After he casually announced that he was naming Dr. David Shulkin as head secretary of the Veterans Administration, Trump rambled on about how badly the press has been treating him, how John Podesta supposedly slammed Hillary Clinton in the leaked DNC emails, and how the RNC wasn’t hacked due to “good defense” (Trump offered up lukewarm praise to Reince Priebus for that). Donald Trump then gave the floor over to Sheri Dillon, the attorney overseeing Trump’s (supposed) divestment from his various businesses.
Dillon, who spoke in a monotone and rarely looked up the whole time she spoke, reminded everyone that the conflict of interest rules that bound everyone else in government did not apply to the President of the United States. She then added that Trump, concerned about the appearance of impropriety, was turning over the business to his eldest sons. Dillon also stated that all the proceeds from Trump’s hotels would be donated to the United States Treasury so that the American people would benefit from Trump’s business dealings.
But the real fireworks came later, several minutes after Trump retook the podium. Trump claimed that the CNN story about the Russians using compromising personal information — and the possibility of a sex tape — in order to blackmail Trump was “fake news.” This set off a contentious exchange with a CNN reporter who repeatedly asked Trump to categorically deny that his campaign had contact with the Russian government. Trump ignored the reporter and pointedly took other questions from other reporters about other topics. Trump ended the press conference with a promise to fire his sons if they did not properly manage his business.
When I got done simultaneously facepalming and snickering, I puzzled over what the whole thing really meant. Was the Trump press conference just another attempt to distract the American people from more important happenings on Capitol Hill? (Rex Tillerson and Jeff Sessions are both being confirmed.) Was this nothing more than a narcissistic blowhard seeking attention?
Or was this press conference a subconscious attempt by Trump to derail his presidency before it starts? After all, over the past few weeks, Trump has become aware of how complex, time-consuming, stressful, and downright tedious the work of president is. And now that he is developing an understanding of how the American government works, Trump is now aware that he often cannot make unilateral decisions, something he was used to doing as head of the Trump family business. Setting himself up for failure is an excellent way to leave the White House without losing face by quitting outright.
The press conference may have also been an attempt to confess, however roundaboutly. Trump is well-known for projecting his shortcomings onto others. He relentlessly mocked Rosie O’Donnell and several other women for being fat, despite being obese himself. Trump criticized two political opponents — Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton — for being dishonest and crooked; Trump is notorious for ripping off contractors, vendors, and investors and lied nearly three out of every four times he opened his mouth on the campaign trail. Trump made Bill Clinton’s reputed sexual indiscretions a talking point on the campaign trail. Trump was then accused of assaulting a dozen women himself after he got caught on tape bragging about forcibly touching women and getting away with it because he was famous. And, during the campaign, Trump took to Twitter at three am to denounce former Miss Universe winner, Alicia Machado, for appearing in a sex tape. A sex tape, which incidentally, doesn’t exist. That being said, is it possible that the story about Trump’s sex tape has an element of truth to it?
Whether the story is true or not, Trump has gone out of his way to create the impression that the story could be true. What would have been dismissed as an absolutely ludicrous rumor had it involved any other President-elect has the faintest ring of truth when Trump’s name comes up. When a President-elect sets the bar for civil discourse and professional decorum so low, it becomes increasingly difficult to disbelieve even the most outrageous rumors.