Something just short of that happened to Billy Bush, the host who played along with Mr. Trump on the 2005 recording. NBC announced his suspension from the "Today" show after the clip surfaced nationally last week. (I should note here that I co-anchor "Squawk Box" on CNBC, which is another unit of NBCUniversal.)
Jack Welch, the former chief executive of General Electric, which owned NBC when Mr. Trump started "The Apprentice," was an impassioned supporter of Mr. Trump's presidential campaign before the lewd comments were made public. Afterward, he took to Twitter to say, "Party must change nominee now."
Mr. Trump says the country has become "too politically correct." His surrogates, like Rudy Giuliani, have defended him by saying he shouldn't be held accountable because he wasn't running for president when he made those statements over a decade ago.
But times have changed. The days of corporate America and Wall Street as swashbuckling, cigar-chomping, liquor-swilling — and female harassing — playgrounds à la the 1980s and '90s are long over. Susan Antilla wrote a book, "Tales From the Boom-Boom Room: Women vs. Wall Street," that chronicled a pattern of horrific behavior at Smith Barney. The tale ended with $150 million in awards and settlements.
Mr. Trump's casual line on the 2005 tape — "When you're a star, they let you do it, you can do anything" — reminded me of a passage from an interview Mrs. Antilla conducted earlier this year for The Times, in which she quoted Lisa Mays, a Smith Barney executive involved in the suit, about how she had been cornered by a male co-worker. "Before I knew it, he was lifting my skirt to get into my tights, and I was begging him to stop," Ms. Mays said, adding that it had quickly ended when another employee arrived. "And then, he just walked away like nothing happened."
Mr. Trump says his words were just words, and that he has never assaulted any women.
Still, that's not the standard to qualify for a job — either in the private sector, or as the highest official in the land.
"It would be a significant risk for a Fortune 500 company to bring in someone like this," said Tom Spiggle, a former prosecutor who is now a discrimination lawyer who has sounded the alarm about Mr. Trump on social media. "It could be a tremendous liability," he added.
Lawyers say that hiring Mr. Trump now could pose huge problems for a company because if an employee were to ever accuse him of harassment, his earlier comments could be used not only to show a pattern, but also that the company was aware of the issue when it signed him on. "We have these statements," Mr. Spiggle said, adding that if he were litigating such a case, "We'd use them all day long. It doesn't matter it was 11 years ago."