Donald Trump's campaign manager Kellyanne Conway defended her boss’s decision to bring women who claim to have been victimized by the Clintons to Sunday night’s presidential debate, declaring that the move “has to do with the way Hillary Clinton shamed and blamed the women in Bill Clinton’s life.”
Trump’s decision, which included a pre-debate press conference with the women and front-row seats at the debate, was perceived by some as a stunt intended to divert attention away from a recording published Friday by the Washington Post of the Manhattan billionaire making remarkably vulgar comments about women. But Conway said the decision to bring the four women, three of whom claim to have been the victim of rape or unwanted sexual advances by Bill Clinton, was not meant to equate Trump’s words with the Clintons’ supposed deeds.
“Let's not conflate the two. This does not have to do with Bill Clinton. It has to do with the way Hillary Clinton shamed and blamed the women in Bill Clinton’s life,” Conway said on NBC’s “Today” show Monday morning. “You can call them accusers. But in the case of Paula Jones, she received over $800,000 to settle a sexual harassment suit in 1998 dollars. Kathy Shelton was a 12-year-old rape victim and the man who raped him was represented by Hillary Rodham Clinton, and she wants to tell her story.”
Bill Clinton has denied the allegations against him from the three Trump guests, and his settlement with Jones was paid without any admission of guilt. In the case of Shelton, Hillary Clinton was ordered to represent the rapist by an Arkansas judge, which she said she did despite being uncomfortable with the case.
Conway also defended Trump’s mea culpa from the debate, in which he apologized for remarks he made in 2005 describing how his celebrity status allowed him to sexually assault women with impunity. On stage Sunday night, the GOP nominee chalked up the remarks to “locker room talk” and Monday morning, Conway said Trump had been sufficiently contrite.
“You just played the clip, Savannah, respectfully, you just played the clip of him saying, ‘I was embarrassed, I hated it I didn't like it. I’ve apologized to my family and I’ve apologized to the American people,’” she told “Today” host Savannah Guthrie. “And then he talked about the difference between words and action and the way Hillary Clinton treated these women.”
Filled with personal attacks and discussion of lewd and potentially criminal sexual behavior, Sunday night’s debate strayed often away from campaign issues despite the town-hall format. But Conway said Trump “took the case to Hillary Clinton” on a variety of her scandals, offering voters an even clearer picture of the two candidates.
“I think it was a good night for democracy in this way, they really have a contrast, they really have a choice in two candidates this year, this election cycle, next month,” she said. “So for those interested in issues, which we talk about every day, there was plenty to hear in those 90 minutes.”