Donald Trump, an American businessman and current President of the United States, has been accused of sexual assault and sexual harassment by at least fifteen women since the 1980s. Three women have filed lawsuits, which were eventually withdrawn and/or settled, alleging that they were sexually assaulted by Trump. Additionally one accuser filed a defamation lawsuit in 2017 after Trump called her a liar. In addition to these lawsuits, Trump has also been publicly accused of non-consensual kissing, or non-consensual groping of breasts, buttocks and genitalia, by at least twelve more women.
Several of these allegations preceded Trump’s candidacy for president, but many more arose during that campaign, when a 2005 recording was leaked. Trump was recorded bragging that a celebrity like himself “can do anything” to women, including “just start kissing them … I don’t even wait” and “grab ’em by the pussy“. During the October 9, 2016 second presidential debate, two days after the recording was leaked, Trump denied that his recorded comments described sexual assault and denied ever inappropriately touching a woman. Many of his accusers stated that these denials provoked them into going public with their allegations.
A third type of accusation women have made, primarily after the 2016 debate, was of Trump entering dressing rooms of beauty pageant contestants in 1997, 2000, 2001, and 2006, while they were in various stages of undress, a practice that Trump admitted to during a 2005 interview on The Howard Stern Show. This practice allegedly extended to Miss Teen USA; several former participants in that pageant allege that Trump walked into the dressing rooms of girls as young as 15.
Trump has denied the allegations, saying that he has been the victim of media bias, conspiracies, and a political smear campaign. In October 2016, Trump publicly vowed to sue all of the women who have made allegations of sexual assault or sexual harassment against him, as well as to sue the New York Times for publishing allegations, but never followed through.
Accusations filed in court against Trump
Main article: Legal affairs of Donald Trump
Ivana Trump (1989)
Ivana Trump and Donald Trump married in 1977. Ivana stated in a deposition taken in 1989, during their divorce proceedings, that Donald had visited her plastic surgeon following which he had expressed anger and ripped out hair from her scalp. Donald said the allegation was “obviously false”. The 1993 book Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald Trump, by Harry Hurt III, described the alleged attack as a “violent assault” during which Donald attacked Ivana sexually.According to the book, Ivana later confided to some of her friends that Donald had raped her. In a statement given just before the publication of Hurt’s book, and included in the book, Ivana said:
[O]n one occasion during 1989, Mr. Trump and I had marital relations in which he behaved very differently toward me than he had during our marriage. As a woman, I felt violated, as the love and tenderness, which he normally exhibited towards me, was absent. I referred to this as a “rape,” but I do not want my words to be interpreted in a literal or criminal sense.
The Trumps’ divorce was granted in December 1990 on grounds that Donald’s treatment of Ivana was “cruel and inhuman”. According to Trump’s lawyer, Jay Goldberg, this was based on Trump having been seen in public with Marla Maples in 1990. Their settlement[a] had a confidentiality clause, per a statement by Ivana. In 1992, Trump sued Ivana for not honoring a gag clause in their divorce agreement by disclosing facts about him in her best-selling book, and Trump won a gag order.
Years later, Ivana said that she and Donald “are the best of friends”. In a July 2016 campaign endorsement, Ivana said: “I have recently read some comments attributed to me from nearly 30 years ago at a time of very high tension during my divorce from Donald. The story is totally without merit.”
Jill Harth (1992)
Jill Harth alleges that Trump assaulted her several times. Harth has stated that in December 1992, while dining with Trump and her then-boyfriend George Houraney, Trump attempted to put his hands between her legs. Harth and Houraney visited Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida in January 1993 for a contract-signing celebration. Trump, according to Harth, offered her a tour before pulling her into the empty bedroom of his daughter Ivanka. “I was admiring the decoration, and next thing I know he’s pushing me against a wall and has his hands all over me. He was trying to kiss me. I was freaking out.” Harth says she desperately protested against Trump’s advances, and eventually managed to run out of the room. She and her boyfriend left rather than stay the night, as they had intended. After she became engaged, Harth alleges, Trump began to stalk her.
Harth filed a lawsuit in 1997 in which she accused Trump of non-consensual groping of her body, among them her “intimate private parts”, and “relentless” sexual harassment. The suit was withdrawn after Houraney settled with Trump for an undisclosed amount in a lawsuit that claimed that Trump backed out of a business deal. She still claims to have been sexually assaulted and although he was never violent with her, she says he made attacks that were “unwanted and aggressive, very sexually aggressive.” “They dated for several months in 1998, when he was separated from Maples, she says. In the end, he was a disappointing boyfriend, always watching television and rarely offering emotional support, she says.”
In 2015, Harth worked at one of Trump’s rallies as a makeup artist. Of the experience, she said: “I’m a makeup artist. The guy is a mess, OK? He really needed my services, and I’m a makeup artist that needs a job. Why would, if I was on friendly terms, why wouldn’t I try to get that job?”
Her case was first published in May 2016 in the New York Times article “Crossing the Line”. Trump characterized her story in the Times as “false, malicious and libelous” and stated that he “strongly denies the claims.” Harth stood by her charges in a July 2016 interview with The Guardian. In October 2016, she stated that, if sued by Trump, she intends to counter-sue.
Recording controversy and second 2016 presidential debate
Main article: Donald Trump and Billy Bush recording
Two days before the second 2016 presidential debate, the 2005 Access Hollywood tape was released, which records Trump having “an extremely lewd conversation about women” in which he described being able to kiss and grope women because he was “a star”: “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.” Many attorneys and media commentators have said that Trump’s statements described sexual assault.[b]
On October 7, Trump released a video statement in which he stated, “I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize.” He called the development a distraction and attempted to deflect attention to the Clintons, and in particular sex scandals involving Bill Clinton. Republican critics called on him to withdraw from the presidential race.
During the second debate, Anderson Cooper asked Trump if he understood that he had bragged about sexually assaulting women. Cooper used the Justice Department’s sexual assault definition to include “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.” Trump denied that he had said that he had sexually assaulted women. He claimed the comments were merely “locker room talk”, then, after being asked three times whether he had ever kissed or groped any person without consent, he said “no I have not”. Several of his subsequent accusers said this was the moment at which they were motivated to come forward.
Allegations of unwanted physical contact
In May 2016, The New York Times published the article “Crossing the Line: How Donald Trump Behaved with Women in Private”. For the article, Times reporters Michael Barbaro and Megan Twohey conducted 50 interviews with women who had known Trump socially, during their professional career, or while modeling or competing for a beauty pageant title.
Their accounts — many relayed here in their own words — reveal unwelcome romantic advances, unending commentary on the female form, a shrewd reliance on ambitious women, and unsettling workplace conduct, according to the interviews, as well as court records and written recollections. The interactions occurred in his offices at Trump Tower, at his homes, at construction sites and backstage at beauty pageants. They appeared to be fleeting, unimportant moments to him, but they left lasting impressions on the women who experienced them.
Other women interviewed for the story, a few of whom had worked for Trump, stated they had not received unwanted advances and “they had never known Mr. Trump to objectify women or treat them with disrespect.” Jill Martin, a vice president and assistant counsel at the company, said that Trump was supportive of her and her role as a mother. Laura Kirilova Chukanov, a Bulgarian immigrant and 2009 Miss USA pageant contestant, said that Trump helped her make connections for a documentary that she was working on about her home country.
Natasha Stoynoff, Mindy McGillivray, Jessica Leeds, and Rachel Crooks spoke out about their allegations in October 2016 after hearing Trump deny during the debate that he had ever assaulted women. The Times stated that they verified the stories with friends and family members of the accusers to ensure that the stories had been relayed to them earlier.
Jessica Leeds (1980s)
In the early 1980s, Leeds was a businesswoman at a paper company on a flight from the Midwest, returning to New York. A flight attendant offered her an empty seat in the first-class cabin next to Trump. Leeds described how, about 45 minutes after takeoff, Trump lifted the armrest and began to touch her, grabbed her breasts, and tried to put his hand up her skirt. “He was like an octopus,” she said. “His hands were everywhere. It was an assault.” Leeds said she had sent a letter containing her allegations to the editor of The New York Times.
Trump spokesman Jason Miller responded to the allegation calling it “fiction.” Miller stated the charges were politically motivated “for this to only become public decades later in the final month of a campaign for president should say it all.” Trump publicly threatened to sue the Times over the newspaper’s publication of the allegation, and demanded a retraction. The Times rejected Trump’s retraction demand, and Trump never followed through on his threat to take legal action against the company. An alleged witness to the case who claimed he saw “nothing untoward” upon the flight was former British Conservative county councillor from Gloucestershire, Antony Gilberthorpe. Gilberthorpe has a history of making false allegations against politicians and has been previously accused of making “advances of an intimate nature” towards Conservative students.
Kristin Anderson (1990s)
On October 14, 2016, The Washington Post reported accounts by Kristin Anderson that Trump groped her beneath her skirt in a Manhattan nightclub in the early 1990s. An aspiring model at the time of the incident, Anderson related her experience to friends, and decided to come forward after reading accounts of other women who had done so. Anderson believed that the incident occurred at the China Club, a Manhattan nightclub that Newsday referred to as “Donald’s Monday-night nest” due to his alleged habit of picking up women there.
Cathy Heller (1997)
In February 2016, Cathy Heller was interviewed off the record for an article for The Guardian in which she recounted how she was grabbed and kissed by Donald Trump two decades earlier. Heller reports that, in 1997, she met Trump when she attended a Mother’s Day brunch with her children, her husband, and her husband’s parents at his Mar-a-Lago estate. Her parents-in-law were members of Mar-a-Lago. Heller was introduced to Trump, who became angry when she avoided a kiss. He then “grabbed” her and, when he tried to kiss her, she turned her head. Trump kissed her on the side of the mouth “for a little too long” and then he left her.
Heller’s husband and children, who were present during the event, have corroborated her account. In the summer of 2015, the members of Heller’s mahjong group heard Heller’s account of the 1997 incident; this was not long after Trump announced his candidacy. She decided to go public after seeing the second presidential debate on October 9, 2016. Heller is a registered Democrat, and public supporter of Hillary Clinton.
Trump campaign spokesperson Jason Miller stated that Heller’s account is “false” and “politically motivated”.
Temple Taggart McDowell (1997)
Temple Taggart McDowell, Miss Utah USA in 1997, publicly accused Trump of unwanted kisses and embraces that left McDowell and one of her chaperones so uncomfortable, according to McDowell, that she claimed she was instructed not to be left in a room alone with him again. According to McDowell, a chaperone had accompanied her to Trump’s office. At the time, McDowell was 21 and was known as Temple Taggart. This incident occurred in Trump’s first year of ownership of the Miss USA contest.
McDowell told her story initially to The New York Times in May 2016 which was published in the “Crossing the Line: How Donald Trump Behaved With Women in Private” article. She had not intended to speak publicly about the incidents again, but she received numerous calls recently due to the “Crossing the Line” article and felt, as a mother, that it is important to share a message about unwanted advances: “You have the right to say no. You have the right to get out of there. You have the right to leave, and you have the right to make them feel uncomfortable if they’re making you feel uncomfortable,” she said. Trump stated that he does not know her and denied McDowell’s claims. He also told The New York Times that he is “reluctant to kiss strangers on the lips.”
Taggart McDowell stated that she is a Republican, and not coming out with the allegation in order to support Hillary Clinton.
Karena Virginia (1998)
At an October 2016 press conference with attorney Gloria Allred, yoga instructor and life coach Karena Virginia stated that in 1998, Trump grabbed her arm and touched her breast. Virginia, who was 27 years old at the time, was waiting for a ride after the US Open in Queens, New York. She stated that Trump, who she had not met previously, approached her with a small group of other men, while commenting on her legs, then he grabbed her right arm. Virginia continued, “Then his hand touched the right side of my breast. I was in shock. I flinched. ‘Don’t you know who I am? Don’t you know who I am?’ – that’s what he said to me. I felt intimidated and I felt powerless.”
Trump campaign spokesperson Jessica Ditto responded to the allegation with a statement reading in part, “Discredited political operative Gloria Allred, in another coordinated, publicity seeking attack with the Clinton campaign, will stop at nothing to smear Mr. Trump.”
Mindy McGillivray (2003)
In an article by The Palm Beach Post, Mindy McGillivray stated that in January 2003, when she was 23 years old, she was groped by Trump at his Mar-a-Lago estate. She said, “All of a sudden I felt a grab, a little nudge. I think it’s [my friend Ken Davidoff’s] camera bag, that was my first instinct. I turn around and there’s Donald. He sort of looked away quickly.”Ken Davidoff, a photographer, corroborated McGillivray’s account, saying he remembered her pulling him aside moments after the alleged incident to say “Donald just grabbed my ass!”
McGillivray said that she “chose to stay quiet” and never reported the incident to authorities. She had only shared details of the incident with close family and friends until she heard Trump deny such behavior during the second presidential debate on October 9, 2016. Hope Hicks, Trump’s press secretary, stated that McGillivray’s allegations lacked “any merit or veracity” and were untruthful.
Ken Davidoff’s brother, Darryl Davidoff, said that he was also present at the time at Mar-a-Lago, and stated that in his opinion McGillivray is lying. According to Darryl: “I do not believe it really happened. Nobody saw it happen and she just wanted to be in the limelight.”[c]
Rachel Crooks (2005)
In 2005, Rachel Crooks was a 22-year-old receptionist at Bayrock Group, a real estate investment and development company in Trump Tower in Manhattan. She says she encountered Trump in an elevator in the building one morning and turned to introduce herself. They shook hands, but Mr. Trump would not let go. Instead, he began kissing her cheeks, then directly on the mouth. “It was so inappropriate,” Crooks recalled in an interview. “I was so upset that he thought I was so insignificant that he could do that.” Her story was printed by The New York Times, along with that of Jessica Leeds.Trump has categorically disputed Crooks’ claims. Crooks is a public supporter and donor to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Natasha Stoynoff (2005)
Canadian author and journalist Natasha Stoynoff, who wrote for People magazine and, previously, the Toronto Star and Toronto Sun, went to Trump’s Florida estate in December 2005 to interview him and his wife, Melania. While there, Trump gave Stoynoff a tour of the Mar-a-Lago estate. She says that during this tour, he pushed her against a wall and forced his tongue into her mouth.
Stoynoff described the alleged episode, “We walked into that room alone, and Trump shut the door behind us. I turned around, and within seconds he was pushing me against the wall and forcing his tongue down my throat … I was stunned. And I was grateful when Trump’s longtime butler burst into the room a minute later, as I tried to unpin myself.” Stoynoff composed herself and conducted the interview, after which she said Trump repeatedly told her, “We’re going to have an affair, I’m telling you.” Melania was also interviewed for that article.
Trump sent out a tweet on October 13, 2016, in which he said it had not happened and wondered why she had not mentioned the event in her People article of 2005. Stoynoff responded that she had become angry when Trump denied assaulting women during the presidential debate and was triggered by the release of the Access Hollywood recording in early October. Until that point, she said, she had conflicting emotions common among victims of assault, combined with embarrassment and confusion. J.D. Heyman, People’s deputy editor, said: “It was disorienting for her. She felt a great deal of worry and distress about it. Then she felt angry.”
That same day, Melania’s lawyer demanded an apology from People magazine, stating that Melania did not say some or all of what was quoted in the People article by Stoynoff published on October 12, 2016; Melania specifically denied Stoynoff’s claim that she’d run into her on Fifth Avenue following the article’s publication. In an interview with Anderson Cooper that aired October 17 on CNN, Melania again denied having crossed paths with Stoynoff on Fifth Avenue, as stated in Stoynoff’s article. The following day, People published the account of Liza Herz. Herz said she witnessed the sidewalk encounter between Stoynoff and Melania Trump; Herz’ account corroborated that of Stoynoff.
On October 18, People produced six corroborating witnesses who said Stoynoff had recounted the incident to them around the time that it occurred. The six witnesses were: “two editors from People, Mary Green and Liz McNeil; a professor of journalism, Paul McLaughlin; a co-worker; and two personal friends of Ms. Stoynoff.”
Trump’s former butler at Mar-a-lago resort in Florida, Anthony Senecal, 85, was asked about the 2005 incident in which Ms Stoynoff alleged that the butler “burst in” on Mr Trump when she was pinned down by him; Senecal denied that ever happened. Mr. Senecal further states as a butler “I don’t burst in. I knock, then I go in, usually after someone says ‘come in’,” further alleging “And when I went in, there was nothing strange about where she was standing.” According to Senecal, the alleged incident took place in a massage room with windows all around which made it unsuitable to grope anyone since there was no privacy.
Jessica Drake (2006)
On October 22, 2016, Jessica Drake and attorney Gloria Allred held a news conference in which Drake accused Trump of having sexually assaulted her and two acquaintances nearly ten years prior. Drake, an adult film actress and sex education advocate, said that she met Trump at her company’s booth during a charity golf tournament at Lake Tahoe in 2006. Drake claims that she was invited to meet with Trump, who was married at the time, at his hotel suite; she was “uncomfortable going alone” and brought two friends. Describing the meeting with Trump, Drake recounted that “He grabbed each of us tightly, in a hug and kissed each one of us without asking permission.” Drake stated that she and her friends left the suite after 30–45 minutes. Shortly thereafter, Drake claims she received phone calls from Trump or his associate, requesting that she join him in his suite for $10,000, and offering to fly her on his jet back to Los Angeles. She said she declined his offers.
During the news conference, Drake said, “I am not looking for monetary compensation. I do not need additional fame… I understand that I may be called a liar or an opportunist but I will risk that in order to stand in solidarity with women who share similar accounts.” During the news conference, Gloria Allred held up a picture showing Trump and Drake standing together at the time.
In response to Drake’s allegations, the Trump campaign stated that her story is “false and ridiculous”, that “[t]he picture is one of thousands taken out of respect for people asking to have their picture taken with Mr. Trump” but Trump did not know Drake and “would have no interest in ever knowing her,” and that the story was “just another attempt by the Clinton campaign to defame a candidate.” Donald Trump appeared to dismiss the significance of the accusation because of Drake’s line of work, saying, “Oh, I’m sure she’s never been grabbed before.”
Amanda Prestigiacomo, writing in the The Daily Wire, has criticized Drake for suggesting that being greeted with a hug and a kiss without permission is “sexual assault”. According to Prestigiacomo, if this were to be “sexual assault” then everyone has been “sexually assaulted” numerous times, and making such a claim does a disservice to women who have actually faced sexual assault.
Ninni Laaksonen (2006)
Ninni Laaksonen, Miss Finland 2006, appeared with Trump on the Late Show with David Letterman on July 26, 2006.Laaksonen claims that before they went on the air, Trump grabbed her buttocks. As Laaksonen describes the interaction: “He really grabbed my butt. I don’t think anybody saw it but I flinched and thought: “What is happening?” Someone later told Laaksonen that Trump liked her because she looked like his wife, Melania, when she was younger.
Laaksonen revealed her account to a local Finnish newspaper, Ilta-Sanomat, which had contacted her regarding the level of professionalism involved in Donald Trump’s handling of his employees within the Miss Universe pageant. The story was published on October 27, 2016.
Summer Zervos (2007)
Summer Zervos was a contestant on the fifth season of The Apprentice, which filmed in 2005 and aired in 2006.[d] After she contacted Trump, in 2007, about a job after the show’s completion, he invited her to meet him at The Beverly Hills Hotel. Zervos stated that Trump was sexually suggestive during their meeting, kissing her open-mouthed, groping her breasts, and thrusting his genitals on her. She also stated that his behavior was aggressive and not consensual.Zervos is being represented by attorney Gloria Allred.
John Barry, her cousin and a Trump supporter, claimed that Zervos had talked to her family and friends about Trump, promoting his candidacy and stating how he had helped her out in her life. During the presidential primary campaign, Zervos allegedly invited Trump to her restaurant, and he declined. In October 2016, the Trump presidential campaign released an email by Zervos, sent in April 2016, in which she expressed her wish to ‘reconnect’ with Trump.
Burnett’s unnamed friend (2010)
According to CNN anchor Erin Burnett, an unnamed female friend of Burnett’s alleges she was kissed in a Trump Tower boardroom in 2010. She said, “Trump took Tic Tacs, suggested I take them also. He then leaned in, catching me off guard, and kissed me almost on lips. I was really freaked out.” She was invited by Trump into his office. She and Trump were alone in the office when he made further advances, giving her his cell phone number, telling her she was special, and asking her to call him. The woman said that she “ran the hell out of there”. The story was reported by Burnett on CNN in October 2016.
Cassandra Searles (2013)
Rolling Stone and NPR have reported that Cassandra Searles, Miss Washington USA of 2013, was fondled by Trump during the Miss USA pageant of that year. Yahoo!News published an article in June 2016 stating that Searles had made Facebook postings that accused Trump of making unwanted advances. She said that he was “continually” groping her buttocks and had asked her to go “to his hotel room”. Searles also asserted that Trump had “treated us like cattle.” Trump and his campaign have not specifically responded to Searles’ allegations.
Allegations of pageant dressing room visits
Trump owned the Miss Universe franchise, which includes Miss USA and Miss Teen USA, from 1996 to 2015.Contestants of the shows have alleged that, during his tenure, Trump would enter the dressing rooms while they were in various stages of undress. These incidents happened in 1997, 2000, 2001, and 2006. Former Miss Arizona Tasha Dixon mentioned such an incident in 2001 at the Miss USA contest.
Trump also entered the dressing room of the Miss Teen USA pageant in 1997 while the girls were dressing. The youngest contestants were 15 years old. He told the girls, “Don’t worry, ladies, I’ve seen it all before.” Of the 15 former contestants who were interviewed, none alleged Trump said anything sexually explicit or made physical contact in the dressing room.
During a Howard Stern interview in 2005, Trump described his practice of walking in unannounced while beauty pageant contestants were naked or partially clothed:
You know, no men are anywhere. And I’m allowed to go in because I’m the owner of the pageant. And therefore I’m inspecting it… Is everyone OK? You know, they’re standing there with no clothes. And you see these incredible-looking women. And so I sort of get away with things like that … I’ll go backstage before a show, and everyone’s getting dressed and ready and everything else.
Miss Teen USA contestants
Mariah Billado, Miss Vermont Teen USA, is one of four women to mention such a dressing room visit incident in 1997.Billado said of the visit: “I remember putting on my dress really quick, because I was like, ‘Oh my god, there’s a man in here.’ Trump, she recalled, said something like, ‘Don’t worry, ladies, I’ve seen it all before.'” The dressing room had 51 contestants, each with their own stations. Eleven girls said that they did not see Trump enter the dressing room, though some said it was possible that he entered while they were somewhere else, or that they didn’t notice. Allison Bowman, Miss Wisconsin Teen USA, expressed skepticism: “these were teenage girls. If anything inappropriate had gone on, the gossip would have flown.” Billado recalled talking to Ivanka, Trump’s daughter, who responded “Yeah, he does that.” Trump’s campaign stated the allegations of him entering the dressing room “have no merit and have already been disproven by many other individuals who were present.”
Bridget Sullivan (2000)
In 2000, Bridget Sullivan was Miss New Hampshire USA. As she prepared for a television broadcast, Trump walked into the dressing room. She told BuzzFeed that he was coming to wish the contestants good luck, but they “were all naked”. Some contestants that night do not remember him entering while the ladies prepared and other contestants mentioned that they had no negative experiences with Trump. A spokesman for Trump said that Sullivan’s claims were “totally false”.
Tasha Dixon (2001)
Tasha Dixon, Miss Arizona USA 2001, told a CBS affiliate in Los Angeles that in 2001, “[Trump] just came strolling right in. There was no second to put a robe on or any sort of clothing or anything. Some girls were topless, other girls were naked.” She said that having been walked in on when the women had little or no clothes put them in a “very physically vulnerable position, and then to have the pressure of the people that work for him telling us to go fawn all over him, go walk up to him, talk to him …” Trump’s response, provided through spokeswoman Jessica Ditto, is that: “These accusations have no merit and have already been disproven by many other individuals who were present,” Ditto adds that she believes that there is a political motivation behind the accusation.
Unnamed contestants (2001)
An unnamed Miss USA contestant said that in 2001 Trump walked into her dressing room unannounced while she and another contestant were undressed. She told The Guardian that Trump “just barged right in, didn’t say anything, stood there and stared at us …. He didn’t walk in and say, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry, I was looking for someone.’ He walked in, he stood and he stared. He was doing it because he knew that he could.” Another contestant told The Guardian that the contestant spoke to others of this event at the time.
Samantha Holvey (2006)
On October 14, 2016, Samantha Carol Holvey, Miss North Carolina USA 2006, related that “Trump’s conduct was “creepy” around the women participating but never made an advance toward her.” She also said that prior to pageant events, Trump had “moved into areas where she and other contestants were getting ready,” and that she had “never been around men that were like that.”
Comparisons to other behavior
Shaun R. Harper, executive director of the Penn Graduate Center for Education, has said that “many men talk like Donald Trump”; objectifying women and saying offensive things about them. He puts Trump in a class of men whose behavior sometimes includes sexual assault and degrading women. The Economist drew similar parallels, pointing to research that objectifying women can make sexual assault more likely. NPR reported that Trump has exhibited questionable behavior in his treatment of women for some time, using offensive language to describe women including Megyn Kelly, Rosie O’Donnell, and former Miss Universe Alicia Machado. Arwa Mahdawi of The Guardian called his past remarks a “masterclass in rape culture“, pointing to statements such as “26,000 unreported sexual assults [sic] in the military-only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together?” and “women, you have to treat ’em like shit.” On October 13, a transcript from a 1994 Primetime Live interview was unearthed where Trump states “I tell friends who treat their wives magnificently, get treated like crap in return, ‘Be rougher and you’ll see a different relationship.'”
Trump has presented himself as a political martyr in the face of these accusations.[e] He declared “this is a conspiracy against you, the American people”, saying “the Washington establishment and the financial and media corporations that fund it exist for only one reason: to protect and enrich itself” and that “the Clinton machine is at the center of this power structure.” In his next speech, he said New York Times reporters are “corporate lobbyists” for minority shareholder Carlos Slim and Hillary Clinton, suggesting Slim’s motivation is that he “comes from Mexico.” Trump also said the accusers may instead have been motivated by fame or money. He went on to wonder why President Barack Obama had not been accused yet, and denied the Jessica Leeds allegation by saying “she would not be my first choice.”
In the third presidential debate, Trump repeated his claims: “I think they want either fame or her campaign did it and I think it’s her campaign.” At a speech at Gettysburg outlining his vision for his first 100 days, he repeated his denials and stated “all of these liars will be sued after the election is over.” To date, however, Trump has not filed suit against any of his accusers.
Melania Trump has responded to the allegations by charging Trump’s accusers with lying. Mrs Trump has insisted that her husband is a “gentleman” and claimed that he had become a victim of a conspiracy involving the news media and the Clinton campaign.
Although Ivanka Trump has claimed to be shocked over Trump’s 2005 lewd Access Hollywood tapes, calling them “inappropriate and offensive”, she has refused directly to address the issue of her father’s alleged sexual assault. In contrast, Donald Trump Jr. described the 2005 comments as “a fact of life”, and Eric Trump dismissed all allegations of assault as “dirty tricks” from the Clinton campaign.
Leeds’s and Crooks’s allegations, published by The New York Times on October 13, were disputed by Trump’s campaign as having “no merit or veracity”. The campaign alleged that the Times had a vendetta against Trump. The Trump campaign issued this statement through its spokesman Jason Miller:
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. 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. 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. Further, the Times story buries the pro-Clinton financial and social media activity on behalf of Hillary Clinton‘s candidacy, reinforcing that this truly is nothing more than a political attack. This is a sad day for the Times.
Trump’s campaign staff also stated that the Stoynoff and McGillivray accusations were without merit.
Trump’s attorneys demanded a retraction of the Times article and an apology for what they said was a “libelous article”—defamation designed to destroy Trump’s run for president. David McCraw, assistant general counsel for the Times, responded on October 13, 2016, to the libel claims from Trump’s attorney. He stated that Trump’s reputation is damaged and “could not be further affected” due to his own statements, like those he made on the Howard Stern show. McCraw continues, “it would have been a disservice not just to our readers but to democracy itself to silence [the accusers’] voices.” In response to the request to retract the story, McCraw said, “We decline to do so” and stated that Trump was free to pursue the matter in court.
Further information: Post-assault treatment of sexual assault victims
The hashtag #WhyWomenDontReport started trending on Twitter in response to the Trump campaign’s statements that the accusers lack credibility. Many commentators disputed the claim that the timing of the allegations during the presidential campaign has a bearing on how likely the events were. The range of reasons given for why women are reluctant to immediately report sexual assault included fear of reprisals, fear that no one will believe them, the low likelihood of obtaining justice against the assailant, and the traumatic experience of having to be reminded of the event. Liz Plank points out that Trump’s accusers are now experiencing all of these factors since coming forward. Civil rights lawyer Debra Katz and others point out that high-profile cases tend to encourage victims to speak up, even years later. Tom Tremblay, a police specialist in sexual assault, says: “Victims may wait days, weeks, months, years, decades … When one victim comes forward, it’s not at all uncommon to see other victims come forward, who are thinking, ‘Well, they came forward; now it’s not just my word.'” Susan Dominus, writing for The New York Times Magazine, hopes this backlash against Trump will lead to more people believing women’s stories in the future.
Washington Times online opinion editor and Fox News contributor Monica Crowley has commented that the accusations come across as a “classical political hit job” on Trump. According to Crowley this “coordinated attack” could backfire and end up generating sympathy for Trump.
Criticism of media silence
Michelle Obama’s speech
|on YouTube – speech about Trump, sexual predation, and women’s experiences|
The day after The New York Times reported the allegations, First Lady Michelle Obama delivered a widely praised speech on women’s experiences of sexism and sexually predatory behavior. Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post said the speech “will go down as one of the most important of this political cycle, a moment in which she crystallized the feelings of many women in the wake of the Trump tape.”
Michelle Obama had planned to deliver her normal campaign speech, but said during her speech it would have been “dishonest and disingenuous” to do so, as she felt compelled to address Trump’s remarks on women. The speech was “a message she’d been seeking to deliver for a long time about Donald Trump’s cruel language toward women.” In her speech Obama denounced the Trump tape and Trump’s alleged advances: “This was a powerful individual speaking freely and openly about sexually predatory behavior, and actually bragging about kissing and groping women … And to make matters worse, it now seems very clear that this isn’t an isolated incident.” Her speech discussed the history of similar behavior, and the obstacles it places in women’s lives, her voice occasionally trembling with emotion:
It’s that feeling of terror and violation that too many women have felt when someone has grabbed them, or forced himself on them and they’ve said no but he didn’t listen – something that we know happens on college campuses and countless other places every single day. It reminds us of stories we heard from our mothers and grandmothers about how, back in their day, the boss could say and do whatever he pleased to the women in the office, and even though they worked so hard, jumped over every hurdle to prove themselves, it was never enough.
- The final financial settlement following the Trumps’ divorce was made later. There is a discrepancy in reporting of the year of the final settlement; it is reported as having occurred in 1991 and 1992,
- Grabbing someone’s vulva without consent is considered sexual assault in most jurisdictions in the United States.Trump and some of his supporters claim that Trump was not saying he committed a sexual assault, or asserted that groping is not sexual assault. Journalist Emily Crockett says that this is further evidence of a trend to minimize sexual assaults against women. John Banzhaf, a public interest law professor at George Washington University, stated that “if Trump suddenly and without any warning reached out and grabbed a woman’s crotch or breast, it would rather clearly constitute sexual assault,” and that Trump’s remarks may imply consent, pointing to Trump’s statement “and when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”
- Ken Davidoff has claimed that Darryl made the statement casting doubt on McGillivray’s allegation in order to protect the family photography business.
- The Associated Press interviewed more than 20 people who had worked on The Apprentice television show for an article. The group included contestants, editors and crew members who described commonly hearing offensive and sexist comments. For instance, Trump talked about what women he wanted to have sex with. The article stated also that he “rated female contestants by the size of their breasts.”
I take all of these slings and arrows, gladly, for you. I take them for our movement, so that we can have our country back. Our great civilization here in America and across the civilized world has come upon a moment of reckoning … This is our moment of reckoning as a society and as a civilization itself. I didn’t need to do this, folks, believe me — believe me. I built a great company and I had a wonderful life. I could have enjoyed the fruits and benefits of years of successful business deals and businesses for myself and my family. Instead of going through this absolute horror show of lies, deceptions, malicious attacks — who would have thought? I’m doing it because this country has given me so much, and I feel so strongly that it’s my turn to give back to the country that I love. Many of my friends and many political experts warned me that this campaign would be a journey to hell – said that. But they’re wrong. It will be a journey to heaven, because we will help so many people that are so desperately in need of help. “— Donald Trump
- According to Cohen: