With her 2016 election defeat behind her, Hillary Rodham Clinton has been blunter about her true feelings on President Donald Trump – and has described him as a “creep” who loves “to intimidate women” and who made her ‘skin crawl’ during a debate.
In the run up to the US presidential race, many looked on in increasing horror as it became clear that Trump was not in fact a strange, upsetting joke being played on the world, but an actual contender with a shot at becoming his party’s official candidate.
And once announced as the Republican hopeful, we were all forced to consider a world with a President Trump – none more so than his opponent, Clinton, who found herself in the unenviable position of having to take him seriously as a person and a politician, to shake his hand and debate with him.
Now, having written a memoir of the experience in which she says “I’m letting my guard down”, she describes one particular televised debate in which the ‘pussy-grabbing’ reality star made her feel “incredibly uncomfortable” by following her round the stage as she spoke and took questions.
In excerpts from What Happened revealed exclusively on MSNBC’s Morning Joe show, Clinton said Trump’s actions were “not OK”.
“It was the second presidential debate and Donald Trump was looming behind me,” she read. “Two days before, the world heard him brag about groping women. Now we were on a small stage and no matter where I walked, he followed me closely, staring at me, making faces.
“It was incredibly uncomfortable. He was literally breathing down my neck. My skin crawled […]
“Do you stay calm, keep smiling and carry on as if he weren’t repeatedly invading your space? Or do you turn, look him in the eye and say loudly and clearly, ‘Back up, you creep. Get away from me. I know you love to intimidate women, but you can’t intimidate me, so back up.’”
Clinton, as we know, did indeed carry on, but reveals in the book that she wondered whether she should have responded differently.
“Maybe I have over-learned the lesson of staying calm, biting my tongue, digging my fingernails into a clenched fist, smiling all the while, determined to present a composed face to the world.”
The St. Louis debate was days after the recording of Trump boasting he could “do anything” to women because he was famous, including “grab them by the pussy”, went public.
His actions on stage didn’t go unnoticed at the time, either; as a report in The Washington Post points out, several news outlets commented on his behaviour, both his interruptions and his aggressive approach, while body language experts described him as “visually disrespecting” her. Social media erupted with indignation, with many accusing him of intimidatory tactics, while her spokesperson described Trump as “menacingly stalking” his opponent.
It was so widely noted that Saturday Night Live even did a sketch based on it, with Alex Baldwin as Trump creepily prowling around her before heading off at the last second.
In an introduction to the book, revealed by publisher Simon & Schuster, Clinton explains: “In the past, for reasons I try to explain, I’ve often felt I had to be careful in public, like I was up on a wire without a net.
“Now I’m letting my guard down.”
Images: Rex Features