“This is not okay, I thought,” Clinton said, reading from her book, What Happened, during an appearance on MSNBC's Morning Joe. "It was the second presidential debate and Donald Trump was looming behind me. 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."
It was a debate that was at many times more about the tenor and tone of the campaign than the issues, where many tuned in to see how Donald Trump would respond to a leaked Access Hollywood videotape from 2005 in which he appeared to advocate and admit to sexual assault.
"You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful, I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything," Trump says on the tape.
Half the evening played out on social media, with much of America watching with one eye on the stage and the other on instant public commentary flooding across Facebook and Twitter. The firestorm began before the debate with Trump calling an unusual press panel with three women who had accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct.
As news broke of the unprecedented move, some criticized it as a transparent ploy to deflect attention from Trump’s own problems with women. Jennifer Palmieri, Clinton's communications director at the time, responded almost as soon as the news of Trump's live Facebook video with the women broke, saying,"We're not surprised to see Donald Trump continue his destructive race to the bottom."
When he wasn’t pacing around the stage, Trump stood directly behind Clinton while he waited for an opportunity to speak. His actions were widely mocked and criticized following the debate, inspiring a Saturday Night Live sketch in which he (played by Alec Baldwin) repeatedly zooms after a befuddled Clinton (played by Kate McKinnon).
As Slate’s L.V. Anderson wrote, "During Clinton’s time, Trump wandered around the stage like a bored child at a wedding. He paced back and forth like a patriarch impatiently allowing a woman to speak but thinking better of it."
Clinton's excerpt continues:
“It was one of those moments where you wish you could hit pause and ask everyone watching, ‘Well, what would you do?’” Clinton read. "It was one of those moments where you wish you could hit pause and ask everyone watching, ‘Well, what would you do?’ 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.’”
You can watch the entire presidential debate in question below.