Gennifer Flowers at Debate? Just Making a Point, Says Team Trump
Ashley Parker, Maggie Halberman, NYT, Sep 25 2016
Donald Trump’s campaign moved on Sunday to squelch reports set off by the candidate himself that Gennifer Flowers, the woman whose affair with Bill Clinton imperiled his 1992 presidential campaign, would be Trump’s guest on Monday at his first debate with Hillary Clinton. In television interviews on Sunday morning, Trump’s running mate Mike Pence flatly denied that Flowers would attend the debate, at Hofstra University on Long Island. And Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, said that in threatening on Saturday to invite Flowers, Trump had merely been making a point. “He wants to remind people that he’s a great counterpuncher,” Conway said on ABC’s “This Week.” The specter of Flowers’s attendance arose during a skirmish of psychological warfare between the two campaigns and their supporters in the run-up to Monday night. Mark Cuban, the voluble billionaire who owns the Dallas Mavericks basketball team and is supporting Clinton, announced on Twitter on Thursday that Clinton’s campaign had given him a front-row seat at the debate to watch her “overwhelm” Trump.
Cuban, who once hosted a short-lived reality television show called “The Benefactor” and more recently offered $10m to the charity of Trump’s choice if he would let Cuban interview him for four hours about his “policies and their substance,” suggested the debate would become known as the “Humbling at Hofstra. On Saturday, Trump responded even more provocatively:
The thrice-married Trump, whose second marriage grew out of an affair during his first one, has repeatedly raised Bill Clinton’s infidelities as a character attack against Hillary Clinton. Several of Trump’s advisers have a long history of calling attention to Clinton’s scandals. Flowers herself lent credence to the idea: “Yes I will be there,” she wrote in a text message to the NYT on Saturday. She did not respond to follow-up messages on Sunday. Each campaign receives tickets from the Commission on Presidential Debates to give to supporters at its discretion, and campaigns often engage in mind games when picking guests, as appeared to be the case with Clinton’s choice of Cuban. But inviting Flowers would be in a different category. Clinton denied Flowers’s claim of an affair, but years later, when asked in a deposition whether he had engaged in “sexual relations” with Flowers, he admitted having done so one time, in 1977. Flowers has accused Clinton in recently broadcast interviews of being an “enabler” and has said the scandal is a relevant issue in 2016. Inviting Flowers would be risky for Trump, because he faces a potentially record-high gender gap with women, who might be troubled by such an aggressive and personal move. On NBC Meet the Press, Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta portrayed Trump’s Twitter post about Flowers as yet another example of behavior unbecoming of someone seeking the presidency. He said:
You saw his reaction, which is to do his favorite sport, which is to dive in the sewer and go for a swim.
But on Fox News Sunday, Pence sought to put an end to the matter, saying:
Gennifer Flowers will not be attending the debate tomorrow night. Donald was using the tweet yesterday really to mock an effort by Hillary Clinton and her campaign to really distract attention from where the sheeple, the Pindostani sheeple, are going to be focused tomorrow night, which is on the issues. It’s on the choice that we face.