We’re all waiting for the other shoe to drop—or, more precisely, the next tape. Almost immediately after Friday’s leak of the Access Hollywood tape, in which Donald Trump brags to Billy Bush about committing sexual assault, speculation began about other damning recordings of the Republican nominee that are yet to be unearthed. A former producer for Trump’s NBC show, The Apprentice, tweeted:
In a tweet he later deleted, TV producer Chris Nee wrote, “Hearing from producers/crew N word is the ‘much worse.’” (“I don’t know what’s out there,” Nee wrote in a follow-up tweet. “Or what still exists. I’ve heard rumors.”) All of this sent journalists scrambling to find out whether such tapes exist, and who owns them. NBC declared that it doesn’t own Apprentice footage, so pressure turned to Apprentice producer Mark Burnett, who released a statement saying he “does not have the ability nor the right to release footage” because MGM owns his production company, adding, “Various contractual and legal requirements also restrict MGM’s ability to release such material.” In an interview with Politico on Tuesday, media mogul Barry Diller called that claim “total bullshit.” Meanwhile, Clinton ally David Brock has promised to cover the legal fees of any Apprentice producer or staffer who leaks footage.
Enough! What difference will another Trump tape make? Any further revelations of this nature should be irrelevant to voters, who have more than enough evidence already that Trump is vile and unfit for the presidency.
On some level, tape of Trump using the N-word would reveal a new low for him on the subject of race. It would paint an even more grotesque portrait of this darling of white supremacists, who said an American-born judge of Mexican heritage couldn’t be objective because “he’s a Mexican.” The N-word is peerless in the lexicon of prejudice, an unambiguously racist slur with a uniquely horrible history. This would presumably make it impossible to defend publicly, even for the most ardent Trump supporter.
It’s worth pointing out, though, that even using this worst of words isn’t worse than actually committing sexual assault, which is precisely what Trump was describing when he said, “I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. I just kiss. I don’t even wait.... Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” And given that some Republicans have protested that grabbing unsuspecting women by the genitals isn’t assault, what’s to say they wouldn’t find some rationale for the N-word, too? It’s not outside the realm of possibility, given how many political norms the Republicans have annihilated this year.
Besides, as Yesha Callahan argued in The Root, “Does it really matter that Trump could be on tape saying the word? Don’t we have enough proof that Trump is racist?” In fact, a single use of the term isn’t the best evidence on that score. Not when Trump has a well-documented history of racial discrimination. Not after his birtherism, which was, as Hillary Clinton and others have said, a years-long racist lie meant to delegitimize the first black president.
The same is true of Trump’s sexism. What would we learn from tape of him using the C-word? The list of every sexist thing he’s already said is incredibly long. We already know, as Fox News’ Megyn Kelly reminded us in the question heard round the world, that Trump calls women “fat pigs,” “dogs,” “slobs,” and “disgusting animals.” Anyone who isn’t already convinced he’s a sexist simply isn’t persuadable.
Trump’s unfitness for the presidency extends well beyond his views on race and gender, of course. They’re his general cruelty and manifest ignorance on every single policy issue. There’s his almost nonexistent attention span and impulse control. These qualities have made Clinton’s arguments about Trump and America’s weapons arsenal seem anything but alarmist. A man you can bait with a tweet really isn’t a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.
Think about the fact that the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA released an ad back in July depicting Trump tweeting like an unhinged lunatic at 3 a.m. in the White House as a red phone rings off the hook. In September, Trump proved truth stranger than fiction, tweeting at 5:30 a.m. that Americans should “check out sex tape” of former Miss Universe Alicia Machado. (Priorities USA tweeted that they had predicted the tirade, accentuating the absurdity with some Trumpian self-congratulation: “Appreciate the congrats.”)
The hunger for more Trump tape is understandable. For journalists, it’s fodder for news. For Democrats, it’s fodder for more attack ads. For most everyone—if we’re being honest—it satisfies a guilty pleasure. But let’s stop pretending that further proof of Trump’s foul mouth and offensive views will transform the contours of this campaign, that one more leak will cause everyone to flee Trump for good.