New reports suggest Trump has privately claimed he has doubts about whether its his voice on the tape on which he boasted about grabbing womens genitals
As president and as a candidate, Donald Trump has pushed the boundaries of truth and accuracy in American politics far beyond the breaking point.
But even by his own standards as head of an administration that proclaims its own “alternative facts”, reports that the president has begun to raise questions about the authenticity of his notorious 2005 Access Hollywood tape represent an extraordinary development.
Just over a year ago as the 2016 election drew to a close, Trump’s campaign was almost derailed after the publication by the Washington Post of a tape in which he boasted about grabbing women’s genitals.
“I said it, I was wrong and I apologize,” Trump said at the time.
But new reports suggest that Trump has privately claimed he has doubts about its authenticity – seemingly adding this to the list of false and questionable statements about himself and others he has made since becoming a presidential candidate two years ago.
The New York Times reported last week that Trump “suggested to a senator earlier this year that it was not authentic, and repeated that claim to an adviser more recently”.
On Wednesday, the paper offered more details, reporting that Trump had asked whether the tape had been doctored despite previously acknowledging that it was him in the tape and issuing an apology in which he downplayed the comments as “locker room talk”.
“I’m automatically attracted to beautiful – I just start kissing them,” Trump says to TV personality Billy Bush in the tape, which was recorded on the set of the soap opera Days of Our Lives, where Trump was making a cameo appearance. “It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. … Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”
In a videotaped apology made after the Access Hollywood tape was published by the Washington Post just weeks before the 2016 election, Trump said he “regrets” making the vulgar comments.
“Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am. I said it, I was wrong and I apologize,” Trump said in the statement.
The Times on Wednesday reported that shortly before his inauguration, Trump told a Republican senator that he wanted to investigate the recording.
“We don’t think that was my voice,” Trump reportedly told the senator, according to the Times, which cited a “person familiar with the conversation”. Three people close to the president told the paper that Trump has continued to suggest the tape is not real.
A story in the Washington Post on Wednesday also reported that Trump had questioned whether the tape of him bragging about assaulting women sounded doctored, citing two anonymous sources who said they had heard the president make the comments.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said earlier this week that the president stood by his apology but did not directly answer the question about whether Trump still believed the tape was authentic.
“The president addressed this,” Sanders told reporters during a press briefing on Monday. “This was litigated and certainly answered during the election by the overwhelming support for the president and the fact that he’s sitting here in the Oval Office today. He’s made his position on that clear at that time, as have the American people and his support of him.”
Asked again if the president had changed his position that the video is authentic, Sanders said: “No. Like I just said, the president hasn’t changed his position. I think if [there’s] anything that the president questions it’s the media’s reporting on that accuracy.”
The hosts of Access Hollywood also responded this week, saying the tape was authentic.
“Let us make this perfectly clear. The tape is very real,” Access Hollywood host Natalie Morales said the Monday morning broadcast. “Remember his excuse at the time was ‘locker-room talk.’ He said every one of those words.”
Trump has also told lies about his views on the war on Iraq, the idea that millions of fraudulent votes were cast in 2016, the idea that Muslims in New Jersey celebrated after 9/11, and how his electoral college victory compared to other presidents, amid many other examples.
The release of the tape ushered in a wave of allegations against the president, from more than a dozen women accusing Trump of unwanted sexual advances. Trump has denied the allegations.
Trump faces a lawsuit brought by one of his accusers alleging that he has defamed her and the other women by rejecting their claims as “lies” and saying their motivation in coming forward was attention and publicity.
Since a flood of allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein pushed the issue of sexual assault and harassment against women to the forefront of the national conversation, Trump has weighed in to say that he is “very happy” that women are coming forward. Yet his view on whether the accused men should be held accountable appears to correlate to their profession and party affiliation.
Trump on Wednesday appeared to celebrate the dismissal of NBC host Matt Lauer for “inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace” and has praised the women who came forward to accuse Democratic Senator Al Franken.
He has also defended Republican Alabama senate candidate Roy Moore, who has been accused of sexual misconduct with teenage girls. Moore denies the claims.
Read more: www.theguardian.com