- Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Four women accused Donald Trump of making unwanted sexual advances on them in reports published Wednesday. The accusations came days after a salacious leaked tape showed Trump bragging in 2005 about groping women under his celebrity status.
The allegations, made by Jessica Leeds and Rachel Crooks in The New York Times, Natasha Stoynoff in People, and Mindy McGillivray in The Palm Beach Post, came after Trump denied ever making unwanted advances when asked during Sunday night’s presidential debate.
Leeds told The Times she was on a plane next to Trump, whom she had not previously met, in the early 1980s when the real-estate tycoon lifted the armrest between them and began touching her. She said he grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt.
“He was like an octopus,” she told The Times. “His hands were everywhere … It was an assault.”
Leeds said she fled to the back of the plane but never made a formal complaint. She did tell her story to at least four individuals, whom The Times also interviewed to corroborate the claims.
Crooks said her incident occurred in 2005 – the year when the damning leaked “Access Hollywood” tape was recorded.
Crooks, 22 at the time, said Trump began kissing her on the mouth after holding on to an extended handshake.
“It was so inappropriate,” she told The Times. “I was so upset that he thought I was so insignificant that he could do that.”
Stoynoff wrote her own story in People, where she was a writer covering Trump in December 2005.
She said she interviewed Trump and his third wife, Melania, at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Palm Beach, Florida, when Melania Trump, who was pregnant at the time, went upstairs for a minute, leaving Stoynoff and Trump alone to tour the mansion.
“We walked into that room alone, and Trump shut the door behind us,” Stoynoff wrote in People. “I turned around, and within seconds he was pushing me against the wall and forcing his tongue down my throat.”
Stoynoff said she tried to get him off her but he stopped only when a butler entered the room “a minute later.” She also said Trump then told her they would “have an affair,” saying he would take her to dinner at a steakhouse when they returned to New York.
A colleague she told the next day encouraged her to tell their managing editor about the incident, Stoynoff wrote, but she didn’t – mostly, she said, because she felt so shocked, angry, and ashamed.
“Like many women, I was ashamed and blamed myself for his transgression. I minimized it (‘It’s not like he raped me…’); I doubted my recollection and my reaction,” she wrote (emphasis hers). “I was afraid that a famous, powerful, wealthy man could and would discredit and destroy me, especially if I got his coveted PEOPLE feature killed.”
Stoynoff said she asked to stop covering Trump for the magazine and never interviewed him again.
McGillivray told The Palm Beach Post that Trump grabbed her rear in 2003. Trump and his campaign have not yet responded to her story.
How the campaigns responded
None of the four women had previously come forward with their stories. They said they did so after Trump said in Sunday night’s presidential debate that his bragging about groping women and kissing them without consent in the 2005 leaked tape was “just words” and “locker room talk.”
“Nobody has more respect for women than I do,” Trump said, adding after prodding by moderator Anderson Cooper that he did not do the things he discussed on the tape.
The Clinton campaign said in a statement late Wednesday that the new revelations suggested Trump “lied on the debate stage.”
“This disturbing story sadly fits everything we know about the way Donald Trump has treated women,” Clinton campaign communications director Jennifer Palmieri said. “These reports suggest that he lied on the debate stage and that the disgusting behavior he bragged about in the tape are more than just words.”
- Thomson Reuters
In the 2005 tape, in which Trump was talking to NBC’s Billy Bush aboard an “Access Hollywood” tour bus, Trump bragged about being able to “grab” women “by the p—y” because “when you’re a star they let you do it.”
The tape, which was released Friday, was believed to be recorded after Trump had married Melania.
Responding to the article on Leeds and Crooks, The Times said, Trump insisted the women’s accounts were false.
“None of this ever took place,” he told The Times, threatening to sue the newspaper.
“You are a disgusting human being,” he added to the reporter.
He repeated his assertion that he never groped women as he described in the tape.
“I don’t do it,” Trump said. “I don’t do it. It was locker room talk.”
Soon after the article was published, Trump’s campaign labeled the entire report as “fiction.”
“This entire article is fiction, and for the New York Times to launch a completely false, coordinated character assassination against Mr. Trump on a topic like this is dangerous,” Trump’s senior communications adviser Jason Miller said. “To reach back decades in an attempt to smear Mr. Trump trivializes sexual assault, and it sets a new low for where the media is willing to go in its efforts to determine this election.”
He called it “a sad day for the Times.”
“It is absurd to think that one of the most recognizable business leaders on the planet with a strong record of empowering women in his companies would do the things alleged in this story, and for this to only become public decades later in the final month of a campaign for president should say it all,” Miller wrote.
The Trump campaign also tried to discredit Stoynoff’s account in People, saying in a statement that her story was “fabricated.”
“This never happened. There is no merit or veracity to this fictional story. Why wasn’t this reported at the time? Mr. Trump was the biggest star on television and surely this would have been a far bigger scoop for People magazine,” the spokesperson said. “She alleges this took place in a public space with people around. This is nothing by politically motivated fictional pile-on.”
Scientific studies, from researchers at universities and the US Department of Justice, have found that only 15% to 32% of sexual assaults are reported to the police nationwide. Survivors often cite feeling as if they won’t be believed, fearing retaliation, and thinking the police won’t do anything as reasons they don’t report unwanted sexual contact.