Melania Trump sat down for an interview with Anderson Cooper. She is seeking to reassure a nation ill at ease that the man on the audio, the man bragging about sexually assaulting women because he’s a “star”, the man who bragged about forcing himself on a married woman – “I moved on her like a bitch” – is a man she does not recognize.
She wants Americans to believe that she has never heard her husband speak the way he did on that tape. Melania does not refer to her husband’s comments as bragging about sexual assault. No. She downplays it. Melania says the exchange is just “boy talk.” Never mind that her husband officially qualified to be a member of AARP at the time he made those comments.
Melania Trump would really like voters to keep in mind that her husband isn’t anything at all like the man who was on that bus with Billy Bush, even though we have yet to see Donald Trump act like a decent human being in any situation. He defies decency on every level.
Melania has some thought about Billy Bush, who lost his job, and maybe his career, over that “boy talk” session. He was likely the one responsible for her husband’s bad boy behavior. You know how boys are when they get together, trying to one up one another.
“Two teenage boys,” Melania attempted to explain away her husband’s behavior to Cooper.
“Your husband was 59 at the time,” Cooper replied.
Melania laughed. “I say I have two boys at home. I have a young son. I have my husband.”
Given Donald Trump’s propensity for the juvenile, I’m willing to concede that yes, living with Donald Trump would be a lot like living with a petulant, ill-behaved 13-year old, who lacks any sense of common decency and who displays a troublesome fascination with his genitals. My apologies to all the well-behaved 13-year olds out there.
“I know how some men talk,” Melania defended.
“Is that how you saw this?” Cooper inquired. “Just as lewd talk?”
Yes, Melania said. She believes the tape, everything, was all organized. A plot to take down her husband. All the women who have come forward with accusations of sexual assault by Donald Trump? Liars. They are all liars working on behalf of a left-leaning media.
It all sounds so familiar. Maybe it’s because I was in the newsroom the first time stories like this made headlines, back when Bill Clinton was president.Only then, it was Hillary Clinton who was insisting that a right-wing conspiracy was underway to destroy her husband. Hillary was convinced that Bill was telling her the truth.
Just like Melania.
How discombobulating, listening to Melania repeat almost verbatim the very same defense of her husband that Hillary had employed when defending her husband.
Initially voters felt sorry for Hillary. Sorry that she put her trust in a man who was cheating on her and lying to her about it. We knew the truth would come out sooner or later. We knew that Bill was playing Hillary for the fool, the way cheaters always do.
“Why would my husband lie to me about cheating on me?”a young woman asked me when the issue came up in her marriage.
What she couldn’t wrap her brain around was that once her husband was found guilty of being with another woman, why would he lie about the degree to which he was involved with the other woman?
“Because cheaters lie,” I explained.
It is a common problem, for both men and women, this admitting to such betrayals. It is so difficult for the betrayed spouse to believe that the person they love and honor would ever cheat on them.
The more Bill Clinton denied his affairs, the angrier the public grew with Hillary for believing his lies.
The more Donald Trump denies his sexual assaults, the angrier the public grows with Melania for standing by a man who brags about assaulting women.
“I’m not sitting here, some little woman standing by my man, like Tammy Wynette,” Hillary said. “I’m sitting here because I love him. I respect him. And I honor what he’s been through and what we’ve been through together. And if that’s not enough for some people, then, heck, don’t vote for him.”
It’s wincing to watch that video given what we know now about Bill’s sexual pursuits.
It’s equally as painful to hear Melania defend a man unworthy of her trust.
“I know what people are saying about me. They think I am not a strong woman. Don’t feel sorry for me. Don’t feel sorry for me. I am a strong woman. I can handle everything,” she said, in a tone reminiscent of that of Hillary.
These two women, they have so much in common. They are the flip side of the same coin, at least when it comes to their love lives. What Melania doesn’t understand yet, but Hillary knows all too well, is that when the dust storm settles over this election, the general public will not feel sorry for Melania. They will vilify her, the way the public has done Hillary, the way we do almost any woman, who out of love, out of honor, out of who knows what all reasons, chooses to stay in a marriage with a cheating spouse.
Melania can’t see it yet, but she would be wise to pay attention to how Hillary has managed to rise above a situation that most of us would find intolerable. It’s bad enough to have your husband take up with another woman, but when he does it in front of God and an entire world of onlookers, it is downright humiliating.
Melania might want to be careful about the women she maligns in defense of a husband who has long history of cheating and lying.
Ain’t nobody going to be feeling sorry for her should Donald Trump have to face his accusers in court.
Ask Hillary. She knows all too well how voters make women pay for the wrongdoings their husbands commit.
Karen Zacharias is author of Burdy (Mercer University Press).