Melania Trump's Defense of Her Husband's Comments Exposes a Bigger Problem

October 17th 2016

Tricia Tongco

Melania Trump sat down for her first interview since the leak of the 2005 recording of her husband and Billy Bush, in which Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump brags about groping women.

In an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, which aired on Monday 8 p.m. EDT, Melania admitted she was surprised by Donald Trump's "inappropriate" comments but assertted he was "egged on" by NBC host Billy Bush to stay "dirty and bad stuff." She then said she has heard such conversations before, which she labeled "boys' talk" or "the way [boys] talk when they grow up...talking about the girls."

People on Twitter were quick to mock the notion that Trump was the victim of peer pressure, inspiring the hashtag #BillyBushMadeMeDoIt.

The responses to Melania Trump's interview vary from humorous to concerned. In addition to pointing out the absurdity of blaming his disturbing description of sexually predatory behavior on peer pressure, people on social media called out how Melania's labeling of her husband's conversation as "boys' talk" perpetuates a dangerous gender stereotype about boys and men.

Since Melania delivered her speech at the Republican National Convention, which was partially plaigarized from a 2008 Democratic National Convention speech by Michelle Obama, she has kept a low-profile during the remainder of the campaign. As The New York Times reports, "[the Trump] campaign’s decision to deploy Ms. Trump as a character witness for her embattled husband came as top aides have struggled how to respond to reports that Mr. Trump forced himself on several women and the emergence of the 'Access Hollywood' tape." (Trump denies the allegations of sexual assault.)

Melania's response to her husband's lewd comments echo Trump's dismissal of them as "locker room talk," which, in fact, normalizes predatory behavior. On its website, the Department of Justice describes sexual assault as “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.” Bridgette Stumpf, co-executive director of Network for Victim Recovery of D.C. told The Washington Post:

“That’s nothing less than someone talking about committing sexual violence — the kissing, the grabbing...He’s talking about women as if they’re objects, as if they don’t have a right to consent to the way someone touches them. This is how sexual violence becomes accepted in our culture.”