Top Republican Spokesman Thinks Pussy Grabbing Might Not Be Assault

“I don’t know. I’m not a lawyer.”

Saul Loeb/Pool via AP


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 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.

One More Thing

And it's a big one. Mother Jones is launching a new Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on the corruption that is both the cause and result of the crisis in our democracy.

The more we thought about how Mother Jones can have the most impact right now, the more we realized that so many stories come down to corruption: People with wealth and power putting their interests first—and often getting away with it.

Our goal is to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We're aiming to create a reporting position dedicated to uncovering corruption, build a team, and let them investigate for a year—publishing our stories in a concerted window: a special issue of our magazine, video and podcast series, and a dedicated online portal so they don't get lost in the daily deluge of headlines and breaking news.

We want to go all in, and we've got seed funding to get started—but we're looking to raise $500,000 in donations this spring so we can go even bigger. You can read about why we think this project is what the moment demands and what we hope to accomplish—and if you like how it sounds, please help us go big with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight 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