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What Makes Trump's Recent Vulgar Comments Different From Other Lines He's Crossed?


Trump's comments have reverberated in a different way than his controversial rhetoric of the past year. Ruth Marcus is a columnist for The Washington Post, which broke the story. She joins me now. Hi, Ruth.

RUTH MARCUS: Hi. Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: Thanks for being here. So you have covered a lot of political scandals in your career and a lot of stuff that was unsavory - the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Clarence Thomas. How does this (laughter) stack up?

MARCUS: (Laughter) Well, every single time, you think that you have seen as amazing and kind of low as it can get, and it just turns out that circumstances make us keep going. And so they did on Friday with this astonishing videotape and audiotape.

MARTIN: What was your response? Were you surprised? Were you shocked?

MARCUS: I was shocked that it came out and that it came out this late. We talk about October surprises. This felt more like a kind of October stomach flu because it was just so nauseating for everybody. And I think it's really an illustration, even though we've heard other things that he's said - but to hear this kind of unvarnished, unguarded ugliness come out of his mouth, not just talking about women's attributes but talking about using his power to essentially sexually assault them, I was really amazed.

MARTIN: So that's why this is different to you. Because he has had a long litany of comments he's made over the past year in relationship to women. But even beyond that, I mean, he's said other things that have offended Muslims, that have offended Mexicans, that have offended all kinds of demographics, and this is the thing that has garnered all this outcry from Republicans.

MARCUS: It's very interesting because from my point of view, pick any of more than a dozen, probably in the couple dozens, comments that Trump made and I think they would've disqualified another candidate. This is the one that is resonating. And I think it has to do with its unguarded authenticity. And also it's not just demeaning. It's kind of actively hostile - I'm tempted to use the word violent, and he's close to that - about using his power to demean and assault women.

MARTIN: We started this conversation talking about how, as you have covered all these scandals, the line seems to get moved in terms of what you can print in the paper, what you can say on the radio. The New York Times, in their reporting of this, published the F-word on its front page, which is unheard of. That's a first. So what happens now? I mean, can you put the genie back in the box? Is it - or is this just the world we live in now?

MARCUS: I think it's more reflective of the kind of greater world we live in where you sort of think about words that were unacceptable that can now be said on television or even radio. So I guess in that sense, it's not particularly surprising that it's seeped into politics.

And there's another aspect to that which kind of has to do with men because one thing that's been interesting about watching women politicians around the world is they have not tended to get themselves into this kind of trouble. Just saying.

MARTIN: Ruth Marcus, columnist for The Washington Post. Ruth, thank you so much.

MARCUS: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.