After a day of extraordinary statements – attacking women who have accused him of sexual assault, and invoking shocking antisemitic tropes – Donald Trump exercised what might be seen as a rare degree of restraint.
Speaking to a Cincinnati arena filled with roughly 15,000 people on Thursday night, he merely insulted the state’s Republican governor, mocked Hillary Clinton’s health and watched as his supporters treated the press with the same affection that lions in the Coliseum treated Christians.
Earlier, in the first full day after Trump faced a barrage of accusations of groping and sexual misconduct from nearly a dozen women, the Republican nominee went on the offensive. At a rally in West Palm Beach, Florida, he suggested that he would never have sexually assaulted one woman who came forward – because she was unattractive.
“Take a look. Look at her. Look at her words. And you tell me what you think. I don’t think so,” Trump said of Natasha Stoynoff, a People magazine reporter who alleged he had “forced his tongue down my throat”.
The Republican nominee also attacked, as somehow biased, the New York Times – which reported the statements of two women who alleged Trump groped them.
He threatened to sue the paper and insisted he had eyewitnesses who could disprove its reporting. He described the women who alleged sexual assault against him as “horrible people, they’re horrible horrible liars”. Trump insisted that the press as a whole was “false and slanderous in every respect” and said “the depths of their immorality is absolutely unlimited”.
The outbursts came less than a week after a leaked tape was revealed of Trump bragging about grabbing women “by the pussy” and enthusing: “When you are a star they let you do anything.”
At the same rally Trump also warned darkly about Clinton meeting “in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of US sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers”.
Jonathan Greenblatt, the head of the Anti Defamation League, promptly denounced the statement, which bore similarities to antisemitic tropes like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion:
Although Trump has not made any explicitly antisemitic statements his campaign has been fervently supported by the “Alt-Right” – an antisemitic internet subculture – and has adopted “America First”, the slogan of groups opposed to US intervention against Nazi Germany in the 1940s as his own motto. The Trump campaign has not responded to multiple requests for clarification from the Guardian.
By the end of the day – and yet another devastating news cycle for his campaign – Trump finally arrived in Cincinnati for a rally in a packed arena.
The Republican nominee yet again mocked Hillary Clinton’s health, insisting she did not have the strength to deal with China – “If she goes down in Tiananmen Square they’ll just leave her there.”
He also took an indirect swipe at the Ohio governor, John Kasich. “I would have honored my pledge but some people lost so badly they couldn’t,” Trump said, referring to the non-binding pledge that RNC chair Reince Priebus encouraged all GOP candidates to sign in 2015, in order to thwart a Trump third-party candidacy.
Trump later renounced the pledge, saying in March 2016 “we’ll see who [the nominee] is” and complaining that he hadn’t been treated fairly. Kasich, who was the last candidate to stay in the race against Trump, has said he will not vote for either the Republican nominee or Hillary Clinton in November.
The Cincinatti rally was marked by unprecedented hostility from the crowd towards the press. Although Trump supporters have long disdained the media and faced the press pen to lambast reporters during Trump’s speech, this time the traveling press were booed and jeered for minutes after their arrival.
The only positive feelings towards any of the press were expressed when a single Trump supporter cheered praise for a reporter for InfoWars – a fringe rightwing website that traffics in conspiracy theories including the claim that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are literally demons.
Clinton, on a fundraising trip to the west coast, said that Trump’s behavior had driven her to looking at pictures of cats on the internet as a diversion.
“It makes you want to turn off the news. It makes you want to unplug the internet. Or just look at cat gifs. Believe me, I get it. In the last few weeks I’ve watched a lot of cats do a lot of weird and interesting things.”
The first lady, Michelle Obama, also hit the campaign trail for Clinton, giving a fiery rebuke to Trump in a campaign stop in New Hampshire.
“I can’t believe that I’m saying that a candidate for president of the United States has bragged about sexually assaulting women.” She added: “And I can’t stop thinking about this. It has shaken me to my core in a way that I couldn’t have predicted.”
The first lady declared Trump’s behavior “not normal … not politics as usual”.
“This is disgraceful, it is intolerable, and it doesn’t matter what party you belong to … no woman deserves to be treated this way. None of us deserves this kind of abuse.”
While Michelle Obama was lucidly making the case in New Hampshire against Trump, the Republican nominee himself was calling a reporter who asked him about the recent allegations “a sleazebag” at a roundtable in Florida.