The Huffington Post and other outlets are accusing Republican nominee Donald Trump of “sexually humiliating” a Miss Universe winner during a 2011 speech. A close look at the speech in question, though, invites other interpretations.
The video, publicized less than an hour after it was revealed the FBI is reopening its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, shows a short excerpt from a 2011 speech Trump delivered in Sydney, Australia.
According to HuffPo reporter Ryan Grim, the video shows Trump getting “revenge” on 2004 Miss Universe Jennifer Hawkins by calling her onstage during the speech and “sexually humiliating her in front of thousands of onlookers.”
To hear Grim describe it, Trump essentially sexually assaulted Hawkins against her will while a massive crowd looked on.
“Trump … explains why he needs to “get even” with Hawkins, whom he accuses of declining to introduce him at the event,” Grim writes. “Hawkins asks to take the mic to explain herself. Trump initially offers it, then bumps her aside quickly … Retaking the mic, Trump ramps up the revenge.”
Grim places heavy emphasis on a crude pun Trump makes, along with a quick kiss on the cheek he gives her before she departs.
“Trump has been repeatedly accused of sexual assault in the last few weeks,” he says, apparently suggesting Trump had just assaulted Hawkins in public in front of thousands of witnesses. “So far, Hawkins has been mum on the assault allegations.”
Simply bothering to watch the video, though, makes Grim’s spin on events seem downright baffling, as he routinely leaves out relevant information in the effort to make the incident sound like something out of a horror film.
Most notably, while Grim mentions the crowd laughing a few times, he never mentions that Hawkins is also laughing amply throughout her entire “humiliation.” Hawkins never acts frigid, frightened, or upset in any way throughout the entire exchange, yet Grim crucially never mentions this. He suggests that Hawkins attempts to put her arm out to block Trump’s kiss, but even that isn’t clear, as she is putting her arm up before Trump even begins moving in to peck her on the cheek.
Grim’s take is confusing enough just based on the content of HuffPo’s own video. But with greater context, it becomes even more indefensible.
As it happens, the three-minute HuffPo video is simply an excerpt from a much longer speech, the entirety which happens to be available on YouTube (though split into several segments). The longer video provides valuable context that Grim entirely leaves out of his write-up.
For instance, while Trump is supposedly getting “revenge” because Hawkins wouldn’t introduce him, a video of the speech’s start shows that Hawkins did introduce Trump, and in very glowing terms.
Trump then opens his speech by spending several minutes talking about owning the Miss Universe pageant, and repeatedly praises Hawkins, calling her his favorite Miss Universe winner. He also explains exactly what is brought up during the “revenge” later, saying he initially thought Hawkins was refusing to introduce him, but later learned it was due to a miscommunication. Trump then praises Hawkins again for going out of her way to help him despite the initial miscommunication.
“I was really honored that Jennifer came in, I thought that was really great,” Trump says.
After lavishing praise on Hawkins, Trump delivers a roughly hour-long address on business topics. The tone of the address is clearly somewhat comedic, with Trump repeatedly making quips that draw big laughs from the crowd. Then, in the final third of his speech, Trump gets to the topic of “revenge,” saying it’s important to get back at people who have slighted you.
In Grim’s telling, Trump uses Hawkins, and Hawkins alone, to illustrate this point.
But that isn’t the case at all. A video on YouTube featuring the aftermath of this moment shows that, once again, Trump was praising Hawkins and explaining that he didn’t need to seek revenge due to her friendliness and loyalty. Trump then contrasts Hawkins’ pleasantness with the hostility of Rosie O’Donnell, whom he then ridicules in a decidedly Trump-like manner.
Further context makes HuffPo’s spin even more inexcusable. For instance, while Grim says Hawkins has “been mum” about sexual assault allegations against Trump, he leaves out the fact Hawkins praised Trump in unambiguous terms just two months ago.
“He inspired me to keep going and follow my heart,” Hawkins said in August. “He’s really passionate and really driven. He’s like, ‘What’s next?’ He prompts you to think, ‘All right, what is next?'”
More recently, Hawkins has repeatedly resisted pressure from media outlets to denounce Trump because of his remarks about women.
Despite its gross omissions and distortions, HuffPo’s take is getting repeated by other writers at Vox, Time, Slate, and other news outlets. All of them simply repeat Grim’s summary; none of them seem to have bothered watching the entire speech to see its clear holes.
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