Even for 2018, this headline is pretty 2018:
CNN chyron right now: "WH: 'CANNOT GUARANTEE' TAPE WON'T REVEAL TRUMP USING N-WORD"
— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) August 14, 2018
It’s not really the case that Sanders “can’t” guarantee that Trump’s ever said it. If you had asked any of Bush’s press secretaries this question, they would have guaranteed it straightaway even while acknowledging that they hadn’t been within earshot of the president for every moment of his life. They’d be making a judgment based on character: No, of course he’s never said it. Sanders won’t do that. She’s not going to stake (any more of) her personal credibility on Trump’s rectitude, even though it’s impossible to believe that a tape of him saying something like this might exist yet still not have surfaced. It’s the media’s Holy Grail; they’d have found it by now. The “N-word” tape is assuredly an urban legend cooked up by enemies who know that Trump’s enough of a reactionary and a loudmouth to make a scenario in which he casually dropped a slur years ago seem plausible.
The most interesting thing Sanders says in the clip is that if his own cabinet and staff had reason to believe that he really was the terrible person whom his critics say he is, they wouldn’t be working there. Is that right? Imagine Omarosa is telling the truth (difficult, admittedly) and there really is an “N-word” tape and it suddenly surfaced. Trump would either apologize immediately, insisting that he isn’t that person anymore, or he’d deny it emphatically, maybe even claiming that the tape must be one of those newfangled “DeepFakes” that’s been written about so much lately. He might even use both defenses — it’s almost certainly a fake cooked up by his Democratic enemies or Bob Mueller’s office, but in the unlikely event that it’s real he’s sorry and it doesn’t reflect his views. Which staffer would reject those explanations and resign anyway? Did any resign after his “very fine people” comments after Charlottesville? Did they resign after his Helsinki press conference? Did they resign after the “Access Hollywood” tape or any of the various allegations about sexual harassment or assault?
No one’s resigning. They invested in him and those costs are sunk. Plus, let’s be real: How much would it really matter to voters? Most Americans already have a fixed opinion of him that even an N-word tape wouldn’t unfix.
/2 Everyone who would care if he's used racial epithets (and, come on, OF COURSE he has) already treats him like somebody who would, and everyone who supports him already doesn't care. It's all priced in to his support and opposition already.
— SituationRoomHat (@Popehat) August 14, 2018
And to the extent that anyone’s faith in him did waver because of it, the spin to bring them back into the fold is completely predictable:
He never said the N-word.
There are no witnesses to him saying it.
There's no tape of him saying it.
You can't prove it's him saying it.
So he said it; old news.
Thank God he said it; about time someone did.
The real racists are the people complaining. And the media. https://t.co/gwshDhBill
— Jonathan V. Last (@JVLast) August 14, 2018
Ben Shapiro made an interesting point earlier, noting that his opinion of whether Trump should be primaried would change if the mythical N-word tape did happen to surface. He said recently that he opposes a primary challenger for POTUS in 2020 even though he’s a critic because it would damage conservatism, forcing Republicans into a binary choice between Trump and a movement-conservative challenger that the challenger couldn’t hope to win. Ideological conservatives would be punished for years afterward for their heresy in trying to weaken a sitting president. A tape would change the equation, though, says Shapiro, since the party would need to make some show of resistance against renominating him even if it’s doomed to fail. Fair enough, but (a) it *would* fail and (b) its failure would confirm that even a tape of the nominee dropping the king of racial slurs isn’t disqualifying for a Republican nominee. Would that make the party more or less willing to consider other candidates in the future whose views on race are dubious?
.@kwelkernbc: "Can you stand at the podium and guarantee the American people they'll never hear Donald Trump utter 'the n word' on a recording, in any context?"
Sarah Sanders: "I can't guarantee anything… I can tell you I've never heard it." pic.twitter.com/rSDj4ctA5a
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) August 14, 2018