Originally published in The Northern Light

The 2016 presidential election, muddied by scandals and harsh words from both parties, has divided a nation. That is, until last week when a video leaked by the Washington Post brought to light a 2005 video of a controversial conversation between Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump and Billy Bush of Access Hollywood — at the time. The video, of Trump and Bush on a bus arriving on the set of Days of Our Lives, contained three minutes and six seconds of what has now been described by Trump and his supporters as “locker room talk.”

The dialogue between Bush and Trump contained less than tasteful discussion of Arianne Zucker, an actress on Days of Our Lives outside the bus.

Vulgarities to highlight are Trump talking about how he made a move on a married woman. “I did try and fuck her. She was married,” Trump said.

Then, Trump mentioned how he wanted to kiss Zucker.

“I’ve got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her. You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait,” Trump said.

Next, Trump describes how, “When you’re a star… you can do anything,” and exclaims how he can “Grab them by the pussy.”

Multiple people spoke out subsequent to the tape being released, including Democratic Presidential nominee Hilary Clinton. Clinton came to Twitter where she released a statement, “This is horrific. We cannot allow this man to become president.”

Most interesting though, were not the Democratic nominee or parties affiliated with the Clinton campaign’s comments, but comments originating from the Republican party.

House Speaker Paul Ryan declined to appear with Trump at a campaign event that week saying, “Women are to be championed and revered, not objectified. I hope Mr. Trump treats this situation with the seriousness it deserves and works to demonstrate to the country that he has greater respect for women than this clip suggests.”

Even Trump’s own running-mate Mike Pence wouldn’t defend the comments of the 2005 tape.

“As a husband and father, I was offended by the words and actions described by Donald Trump in the 11-year-old video. I do not condone his remarks and cannot defend them.”

In a formal apology issued by Trump himself, the Presidential nominee states he was “wrong” and apologizes. Not forgetting to point out that the unearthed video is, “A distraction from the issues we are facing today.”

Trump then puts the focus on his opponent Hilary Clinton and her husband Bill Clinton, whom Trump has accused of abusing women for years. Ending the apology video with, “I’ve never said I’m a perfect person, nor pretended to be someone that I’m not. I’ve said and done things I regret, and the words released today on this more than a decade-old video are one of them. Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am.”

At the second presidential debate, when asked by Anderson Cooper about the dialogue and how it described sexual assault, Trump used the expression of “locker room talk” to defend himself. But, what is locker room talk?

Matt Thomas, UAA’s head hockey coach, has spent over 35 years in and around locker rooms and notes that the locker room environment lends for private discussions, but never for disrespectful ones.

“Things that we discuss as a team aren’t intended for people outside the team or locker room. It doesn’t allow for vulgar [or] demeaning conversation, but more of a what is said in here stays in here, but it has to be respectful in nature regardless of tone,” Thomas said. “I’m 100 percent positive that Mr. Trump’s comments hardly fall under that category and are totally inappropriate regardless of where you are or who you are with. In my 35 plus years in a locker room environment, there has never been talk that mirrors that of Mr. Trump’s and Billy Bush’s.”

Former Western New Mexico University college football player, Chris Theulen, thinks locker room talk is far from organized sports, and more common, if at all, present in gyms.

“I wouldn’t say that it would relate to athletics and those locker rooms, but more like gyms and those locker rooms,” Theulen said.

For some, the apology wasn’t enough and the comments and dialogue in the video are more than that of “locker room talk,” but that of sexual assault and general disrespect for women.

“It’s disturbing to me because Trump’s comments seem to be an admission of sexually assaulting women. Grabbing genitals or kissing someone without waiting to receive consent is sexual assault. It doesn’t matter whether he made those comments in private or not, if that’s actually a representation of how he engaged with women, then he is admitting to sexual assault with consequences that cascade far beyond the context of that individual conversation,” Johanna Richter, USUAA vice president said. “I find it unfathomable that his defense for making these types of comments is that it was just ‘locker room talk.’ I don’t think this is actually how most men behave or talk about women and I find it utterly shameful that he would try to categorize this as normal male behavior. Even if it was normal behavior, then this should be a call for better education about consent to create a shift in cultural norms.”

On the other hand, there are many Trump supporters who have and will stand by the republican nominee through this controversy. Nate Witt, a resident of Fairbanks, acknowledges the inappropriateness of Trump’s 2005 comments, while also recognizing the seriousness of sexual assault.

“Trump was caught red-handed making some crass and inappropriate private comments to Billy Bush. I, as a man try to stray from this type of language even in private conversation. But, the vast reality is that men brag, men boast about sexual encounters, men are competitive and we always want to one up each other. Any guy who has ever played sports or any other social club with men has engaged in lewd conversation or at least heard it,” Witt said. “There is a major distinction however between crude, rude, braggadocio and sexual assault. Most of the time, men are just full of shit. We talk, we laugh, we make jokes, we compete and rarely do we take it seriously.”

Witt disagrees with the synonymous relationship between Trump’s comments and sexual assault. Citing what he believes is everyday behavior, as demonizing.

“The media has propelled this issue to top importance comparing it with sexual assault. I see this as a major problem because it demonizes normal, albeit crude behavior. It turns every lewd comment that us men make, often with little thought, into a new sort of witch hunt. I find as a whole, our society takes things too literally, not seriously. Words aren’t intent and often are blown out of proportion,” Witt said. “We should respect all claims of sexual assault, investigate them thoroughly and promote safety in all cases. What we shouldn’t do is misconstrue stupid comments to mean something they don’t.”

After the 2005 tape surfaced, records of Howard Stern and Donald Trump came to light with similar vulgarity and tone. Following these leaks, The New York Times reported the stories of two women who were allegedly assaulted by Trump — allegations Trump denies, and in total, over a dozen women have come forward with stories of assault.

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