Accusations Of Sexual Assault Cast Shadow On Second Debate

Trump's ploy to distract from a recently released videotape by reviving old Bill Clinton accusations seemed to succeed

Kathleen Willey, Juanita Broaddrick and Kathy Shelton at the start of Sunday's debate — REUTERS
Oct 10, 2016 at 8:01 AM ET

Donald Trump, through both his own actions and the last-minute counter-attack his team revived, managed to turn sexual harassment and assault into one of the major talking points at Sunday’s debate.

Donald Trump moved quickly to deflect outrage over his most recent scandal in this campaign, a 2005 video in which he boasted about grabbing women by their genitals, by touting the personal stories of four women who made rape accusations against President Bill Clinton in decades past. All four women sat in the audience at Washington University in St. Louis after collaborating with Trump on a Facebook Live video just before the televised face-off with Hillary Clinton.

Vocativ analyzed more that five million tweets about the second 2016 presidential debate by collecting debate hashtags and any mentions of either candidate or moderator. Sexual violence was one of the top trending topics among debate viewers. An estimated 244,141 posts, including retweets, mentioned either “rape,” “rapist,” “assault” or “molest.”

Outraged Trump supporters slammed Democrats by tweeting the hashtag #JusticeforJuanita, accusing Hillary of threatening Juanita Broaddrick after the latter was allegedly raped by the candidate’s husband in 1978. The new hashtag appeared in over 7,573 tweets about the debate.

Meanwhile, Clinton’s supporters clung to the double-standard of sexism in Trump’s attacks: Clinton was widely criticized for her husband’s sexual conduct while Trump himself has been accused of sexual assault by numerous women, including an ongoing lawsuit by a woman who says Trump raped her when she was 13 years old.

Trump supporters trolled Clinton with sexist slurs throughout the debate, which has become the election’s status quo for any woman who opposes the Republican candidate.

This debate showed Trump scrambling to rebuild his public image as a crusader for women’s rights, tweeting a press release about he “empowered” businesswomen and blaming “Clintons” as an inseparable unit for the former president’s misconduct.

Both candidates are now leveraging rape accusations and women’s rights as rallying cries in their political battle. But so far Clinton’s campaign is the only one with an actual plan to address widespread sexual violence.