Top Republican Spokesman Thinks Pussy Grabbing Might Not Be Assault

“I don’t know. I’m not a lawyer.”

Saul Loeb/Pool via AP

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Sean Spicer, a top Republican National Committee official, on Sunday night refused to acknowledge that the conduct Donald Trump claimed to have engaged in during a 2005 Access Hollywood taping constitutes sexual assault. In that video, which has roiled the GOP since its release Friday afternoon by the Washington Post, Trump discussed forcibly kissing women and grabbing their genitals. “Grab them by the pussy,” Trump said. “You can do anything.” In the days since, the press has referred to what Trump described as sexual assault. Trump’s shocking comments caused women around the country to come forward with their own stories of being assaulted in this way on social media and in the press—describing it repeatedly as a violent form of sexual assault that still haunts them.

But Spicer, the RNC’s communications director, refused to acknowledge that grabbing someone’s genitals is sexual assault when asked about this by the Weekly Standard after Sunday’s debate. “I don’t know,” he said. “I’m not a lawyer.”

The answer sounds a lot like Republican Sen. Marco Rubio when he once dodged a question about how old the planet is by saying, “I’m not a scientist, man.” Except Spicer is talking about sexual assault—and trying to minimize the definition and experiences of the people subjected to it. Perhaps Politico reporter Edward-Isaac Dovere said it best:

Spicer isn’t the only Trump supporter trying to claim that what Trump described is not sexual assault. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) also denied that groping someone’s genitals is sexual assault. Here is Sessions’ exchange with the Weekly Standard:

SESSIONS: This was very improper language, and he’s acknowledged that.

TWS: But beyond the language, would you characterize the behavior described in that

Video

as sexual assault if that behavior actually took place?

SESSIONS: I don’t characterize that as sexual assault. I think that’s a stretch. I don’t know what he meant—

TWS: So if you grab a woman by the genitals, that’s not sexual assault?

SESSIONS: I don’t know. It’s not clear that he—how that would occur.

Unlike Spicer, Sessions is a lawyer—one whose nomination to a federal judgeship three decades ago capsized after critics accused him of racism.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate