In recent weeks Donald Trump has faced backlash from voters across the political spectrum due to his sexual remarks about women and allegations of sexual assault.
During the second presidential debate, when asked about a private video that was released in which Trump made references to groping women without their permission, he described it as merely ‘locker room talk.’
Since the second debate, however, multiple allegations have arisen from women who claim to have been sexually assaulted by Trump. Last week The New York Times published an article highlighting these women’s stories. Despite the Trump campaign threatening to sue for libel, The Times refuses to take the article down.
The criminal implications of these accusations will not be solved in time to affect the election, but they have earned the Trump campaign plenty of criticism from both outside and within the GOP.
U student Lydia Monkmeyer expressed indifference to the allegations. “The people who vote for him are probably okay with it already.”
“Whatever impact it will have on the election comes from the allegations themselves, with voters left to judge whether they believe the women who are accusing Mr. Trump, and if they do, whether it impacts their willingness to vote for him,” said professor RonNell Andersen Jones, a first amendment expert and law professor at the U.
“I definitely hope that this will open some eyes, but there are so many people who try to twist his words in a positive way,” said Rachel Haggard, another student at the U. “Like the whole locker room talk idea, people find a way to justify his actions.”
“National polling suggests strongly that undecided voters and especially undecided women, are quite troubled by the allegations—or at least by the cumulative impact of these allegations on top of other recent revelations about Trump,” Jones said. “With something close to a three-way tie shaping up in Utah between Hillary Clinton, Trump and Evan McMullin, we can see that Utah Republicans, in particular, appear to be rejecting Trump as immoral and unfit for the presidency.”
“The second set of legal issues has come about because Mr. Trump has said that the allegations against him are false and has made very adamant statements that he intends to sue The New York Times for libel for publishing them,” Jones added. “On this front, Trump is likely to have a really difficult time. The Supreme Court has made clear that because the First Amendment protects open dialogue on matters of public concern; a public figure or public official like Mr. Trump will have to clear some very tough hurdles to prevail in a libel suit against a newspaper that has reported on allegations that are thus central to the national conversation on his fitness for the presidency.”
In a case of libel, the newspaper does not have to prove itself to be telling the truth. Instead, it’s Trump’s responsibility to prove that the accusations are false.
“If Trump moved forward with his libel suit, The Times and its lawyers would be entitled to discovery of various facts about him as the suit proceeded. This would include subpoenas, depositions and production of various documents related to his treatment of women or previous statements about them. It seems really unlikely that Trump would like to open up his past life in this way—particularly to The New York Times. Sometimes libel suits are brought by plaintiffs who have little intention of moving forward with them and who know that they have little hope of prevailing in them, just for the public-relations value,” Jones concluded. “Trump probably wants to signal to his supporters and others that he doesn’t wish for them to believe these accusers, and the libel suit drives that home, even if it won’t ultimately move forward.”