It’s been a tough seven days for Donald Trump since he was heard on tape boasting about using his celebrity to push himself on women. Yet even on Thursday, after new allegations surfaced, some female supporters said they were sticking by their man.
At a rally in West Palm Beach, Florida, Trump called accusations that he aggressively and inappropriately touched two women “outright lies.” The women’s claims were reported the day before in the New York Times. Other allegations were published by the Palm Beach Post and People magazine.
“I don't want it to be true, but I think he's raised a phenomenal family. I think [the Times story] is all talk,” said Ashley Weingarten, 28. She believes the women made the accusations to get publicity.
At the rally, Trump accused the Clinton campaign of orchestrating the publication of the accusations. “Why wasn’t this part of the story 12 years ago?” Trump asked the West Palm Beach crowd — referring to the People article. “I was one of the biggest stars with ‘The Apprentice.’ It would’ve been the biggest story.”
Yet, even if the claims against Trump were true, Weingarten argued Hillary Clinton treated the women who accused her husband of having affairs far worse than anything Trump said in the 2005 videotape released last week or might have done to his new accusers. “When Bill Clinton was in office, everything she’s done has had more damage by not believing [the women] and how she’s talked about them,” Weingarten said.
A common thread among many of Trump’s young female fans is their distrust and dislike of the Democratic candidate. “I’m scared of the world with Hillary Clinton,” said Kara Logan, 33, a sales worker from North Palm Beach, Florida. “I don't believe she has our best interests in mind. She's really scary to me.”
She and others cited Clinton’s role in the Benghazi attack, “33,000 deleted emails” and Bill Clinton’s sexual escapades, echoing their candidate’s charges. “She lied ... I’m scared that the liberal media is hiding all of this. They just keep talking about Trump, and these women coming out, and I think they're all just fake.”
Another common theme among young women at the rally was that Trump’s remarks about women are just how men talk. They accept his explanation that his words on tape were “locker-room talk.” For those who considered his remarks unacceptable, they think Trump’s apology was enough. “For any women to think men don’t go around saying to his friends ‘look at her butt’ or ‘look at her boobs’ is lying,” said Michal Geiger, 28, from Wellington, Florida. “Everybody does that.”
Geiger insisted that “it doesn’t change my opinion on Trump. It just shows that he apologizes for what he’s said and what he’s done that was inappropriate.”
“So you have a ‘it’s real but it’s not a big deal’ camp, and a ‘it’s not real’ camp, and probably some people in the place in the Venn diagram where the two camps overlap,” said Trysh Travis, a woman’s studies professor at the University of Florida.
“Neither group would find these stories about Trump’s sexual aggression distressing.“ While the recent controversies have brought a lot of women together in a common conversation about sexual assault, noted Travis, not all women see Trump’s talk and possible actions in the same light.
There’s yet another group of young women supporters — those who don’t believe any of the scandals, on either the Clinton or Trump side, should matter in this election. “I don’t care if [Bill Clinton] slept with a thousand women in the Oval Office. That doesn't concern me,” said Rebecca Oliphant, 33, who wore a “Hillary for Prison 2016” shirt at the rally.
“What’s of interest to me is how they’re going to run this country and do international politics. If anyone tracks Clinton, everything she says, although it may sound good, [it] is a lie.”
These women like Trump’s talk about immigration and other issues. And Trump promised at the rally, “I will stay focused on the issues facing the American people.”
“I never knew it would be this vile, this bad, that it would be this vicious,” Trump said. “Nevertheless, I will take all these slings and arrows gladly for you. I will take this for our movement, so we can have our country back.”
"Why do I like Trump?” Morgan Whitehurst, 21, said, then paused. “I don’t know, but I know I’m definitely voting for him over Hillary.”
According to a review of national polls by the website FiveThirtyEight, October results show Clinton leading Trump by an average of 15 percent among women voters.
Editor’s Note: This story was produced by Washington Program reporters from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.